Internal Affairs Investigating Police Response to Alleged 2nd Street Assault

"We need the public's cooperation," says Lt. John Stanford.

Philadelphia PoliceOn Sunday night, a man allegedly punched a woman on the street after the 2nd Street Festival in Northern Liberties. The punch was described by one witness as the hardest punch he had ever seen.

Police were called several times. But according to many of the people who were there during and in the aftermath of the incident, some of the police did not respond appropriately to the situation. And now, Internal Affairs is investigating.

“Anytime that there are accusations that something wasn’t handled correctly, Internal Affairs will investigate,” says Philadelphia Police Lieutenant John Stanford. “We will start an investigation regardless of whether anyone files a formal complaint with us.”

Philadelphia magazine first contacted the Philadelphia Police Department’s Public Affairs unit about the incident on Monday morning after a video and statement posted by witness Andy Molholt gained traction on Facebook.

“Internal Affairs has everything that you sent over, and they are handling it now,” says Stanford.

According to Molholt’s original statement on Facebook, bike cops were there when the victim was screaming but, according to him, they acted “with indifference” and biked away. Another witness, who asked to remain nameless, told us that police seemed to be “just trolling for drunk people” and that “they didn’t care at all about this poor woman.”

Here’s more from Molholt’s original statement:

2nd Street Festival staff were trying to contact the police through their provided private contact lines. No one answered. Two of the staff members of 2nd Street Festival had to search for four blocks to find any police. The officers were being paid to be posted on every block until at least midnight, yet no officers were to be found.

Finally, 4 police cars swarmed the area.

As [festival organizer] Nicky explained the situation, the head officer looked at her, and said simply: “Well, she only got punched, and she doesn’t want to press charges.” This was before the officer spoke directly to the victim …

It shows a real lack of effectiveness of the very people that are meant to save us from these kinds of situations. The jadedness that we were met with from the cops both on the phone & in person suggests that maybe domestic violence is accepted in our culture. This has nothing to do, really, with 2nd Street Festival. This has to do with ineptitude of the police. It seems they don’t take it very seriously, at all. This happened, tonight, August 3rd, 2014. Where were the police?

Another witness, Sarah Connors, posted this:

We watched the couple argue … [but] we took off knowing the handful of cops behind us … as we drove up the block we realized we were wrong — all those cops immediately took off on bikes — every single one — at this point the street was still blocked off and we found out later the cops were being paid to stay until 12 — it was close to 11 — immediately after, we saw the incident … and stopped in the middle of 2nd street to help. The girl was screaming help at the top of her lungs and a handful of others also joined with us to aid her. Nicky later told us she heard the girl from up the street and watched the bike cops turn their heads but continue riding. If they were doing their job this incident could have been avoided — I’m so glad that there are good people who are willing to help in these situations and thankful for the people who brought her paper towels, water, and ice to help clean up the blood on her face. Luckily the woman was okay but this situation could have been much worse — and this guy shouldn’t have walked away without assault charges. It’s just not acceptable.

And here’s what Molholt had to say in a later message posted on Facebook:

The officer who initially approached the victim asked her, nonchalantly & calmly while she was sobbing on the ground, if she wanted to identify this guy. If she is indeed the victim of prolonged abuse, she should have been delicately handled by a professional who really cares. But the way our society works, and how accepted this kind of story has become, is that a disinterested stranger just looks at her with a shrug. The “Philly Shrug.” Imagine being bloody & sobbing on the street in front of dozens of strangers & having an indifferent official who barely cares asking you such a big question? How uncomfortable must she have been.

“Folks will send you guys these emails and they’ll post these massive blasts out there on the Internet,” says Stanford. “But then when we reach out to them to investigate, they don’t want to be bothered. We need the public’s cooperation.”

As for Molholt, he says he intends to cooperate fully. “I would absolutely not be bothered by talking to them, and telling them the whole story. I’m unafraid of any potential consequences to me. I want to help the situation.”

If you have information for Internal Affairs about their investigation, call 215-685-5008. You can also file a complaint with the Police Advisory Commission (a civilian oversight committee) by filling out this form or calling 215-685-0891.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.