Philadelphia, PA – The Philadelphia Police Department has launched internal investigation into the arrest of a 14-year-old boy outside the Cincinnati Zoo on Thursday (video below).
The teen was part of a group of youth who were collecting money from passersby outside the zoo under the false claim that they were members of the North Philly Aztecs football team, WPHT reported.
The group said they were selling water as a team fundraiser and wore old Aztec jerseys to further their ploy.
But the real team’s head coach, Greg Bonner, later confirmed that none of the teens seen fighting with police outside the zoo had ever been members of the organization.
The incident began at approximately 12:30 p.m., when a female security officer asked the group to disperse.
The same group had allegedly solicited money from guests in the past, and had harassed and thrown rocks at staff members, zoo officials said.
When a member of the group allegedly made a threatening remark, the security officer flagged down a passing Philadelphia police officer.
Cell phone footage showed the altercation that ensued, although it did not capture the events that transpired prior to the teen’s arrest.
At least two children were swinging their bags and hitting the officers with them as police struggled with the 14-year-old on the ground outside the zoo, the video showed.
Several more security officers trickled into the scene, and one security officer began screaming at another.
“This is what you want?” she yelled at her coworker repeatedly.
The police officers finally wrestled the teen into handcuffs, but the chaos around them only mounted as they led him away.
He and another adult male were both cited for disorderly conduct for their roles in the incident, WPVI reported.
Philadelphia Zoo’s Director of Communications Dana Lombardo explained that the zoo has had multiple problems with the same group and that it is the zoo’s police to ask anyone engaged in “commercial” or “aggressive” behaviors to leave the property, the Philly Voice reported.
“[They were] not selling water bottles and they are not affiliated with any legitimate local sports team,” Lombardo clarified.
Philadelphia Police Captain Sekou Kinebrew said that the department had opened an internal investigation to determine whether the officers handled the situation appropriately, WPVI reported.
“We're looking at all of that, whether the issuance was proper, whether the control holds were proper, and the entirety," Capt. Kinebrew said.
Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif said that the group would be investigating the incident, according to a Facebook post.
“They were not nuisance,” Khalif said of the youth involved in the incident. “They were selling water. Not crack, not drugs, not any of that nonsense. They were selling water to raise money. Entrepreneurs, that’s what they were.”
“For the Philadelphia Zoo security…to call the Philadelphia Police, who not only didn’t deescalate but do what they always do when it comes to black and brown bodies, especially our children, it ended in arrest. A violent arrest. And I’m not going to tolerate it,” Khalif railed in his Facebook video.
“The Philadelphia cops are out of control…and we say, ‘Hell no, we’re not gonna tolerate it no damn more,’” he added.
Khalif said that the zoo had “been warned” that Black Lives Matter expects “answers” about the incident by Monday.
“And if we don’t get those answers, we will be in front of the zoo and protest…and shut that zoo down, and the street, if necessary,” he continued. “If we don’t hear anything from the Philadelphia Zoo, get ready for us to shut that s--t down.”
Khalif said he was also trying to locate the 14-year-old’s parents, so that Black Lives Matter could help provide him with money for legal counsel.
You can watch cell phone footage of the officers’ encounter with the teens in the video below.
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