Cambridge, MA – A nude Harvard student, who friends said had just ingested “narcotics,” actively fought Cambridge police officers as they attempted to arrest him in the middle of a busy roadway on Friday night, the department said in a statement (video below).
At least seven people contacted the Cambridge Police Department (CPD) to report that a man was “completely naked,” on the Massachusetts Avenue median, including one woman who said that the man had “thrown his clothes in her face,” the department said.
Officers arrived at the scene at 9:09 p.m., and found 21-year-old Selorm Ohene “acting completely irrational,” in the middle of the street, according to a police report.
A crowd of at least 30 people gathered to observe the spectacle, and vehicles slowed as they watched Ohene while they passed by.
A video of the altercation showed three officers as they surrounded the combative man on the median.
“Every attempt that was made to calm Ohene down and reason with him was met with opposition,” Officer Steven Burke said in the report. “We informed him that we were only there to help him and were concerned for his safety.”
Officer Burke explained that Ohene “made it very clear” that he did not intend to cooperate with police, and that he was “aggressive, hostile, and intimidating” throughout the interaction.
One of Ohene’s female acquaintances told police that the man had consumed LSD or “morning glory,” according to the officer’s report.
“Due to my training and experience, I know that both of these drugs have psychoactive and hallucinogenic properties when ingested,” Officer Burke said.
Ohene then clenched his fists, and “started to take steps towards officers in an aggressive manner,” Officer Burke wrote in the report. “Ohene absolutely could not be reasoned with.”
Based on the man’s “tumultuous” behavior, officers said they believed that “an attack was imminent,” and were concerned that Ohene would harm himself or others in the immediate area, according to the report.
When Ohene began to move towards one of the officers aggressively, a second officer tackled him from behind, and took Ohene to the ground, the video showed.
He continued to resist the officers, and refused multiple commands to give police his hands, according to the Cambridge Police Department (CPD) report.
A fourth officer arrived at the scene, and police struggled to restrain the flailing, screaming man, the video showed.
One officer delivered five body strikes to subdue Ohene, who was ultimately handcuffed and taken to a local hospital for an evaluation, the department said in a press release.
During transport, Ohene also “spit a mixture of blood and saliva at an EMT,” the department explained.
Two CPD officers were treated for minor injuries, as well as for unprotected exposure to bodily fluids, the Boston Globe reported.
On Saturday, the Harvard Black Law Students Association (BLSA) disputed CPD’s account of the incident and what was shown on video, and called the altercation a “brutal instance of police violence,” according to a press release.
The BLSA alleged that officers “lunged” at Ohene “without provocation,” before they tackled him to the ground and “punched the student in his torso as he screamed for help.”
“We demand that the officers who assaulted this man while he was naked, fully subdued and bleeding on the ground be investigated and held accountable,” the BLSA noted.
The group also complained that the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) should have dispatched “staff to support the student” at the time the incident occurred, instead of summoning police.
“By involving CPD, HUHS put this student at great risk of being killed by the police,” the BLSA alleged.
CPD Commissioner Branville Bard said that the officers’ “use of force was required in order to effectuate the male’s arrest,” according to the CPD press release.
“[Ohene] was displaying erratic behavior due to reports of his ingestion of drugs earlier in the evening,” Commissioner Bard said. “Once on the ground, officers were unable to gain compliance because the male contorted his body in a way that pinned his arms under his body and officers were unable to handcuff him.”
“An ongoing struggle ensued,” he continued. “To prevent the altercation from extending and leading to further injuries, particularly since the location of the engagement was next to a busy street with oncoming traffic, the officers utilized their discretion and struck the individual in the mid-section to gain his compliance and place him in handcuffs.”
Per CPD protocol, the use-of-force incident will be reviewed by the department’s leadership and the Professional Standards Unit, CPD said.
Ohene was charged with indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault, and assault and battery on ambulance personnel, according to the CPD report.
You can see the video of the incident below: