A punch captured on video scars a Philadelphia police officer's career

A still taken from video during Sunday's Puerto Rican Day celebration shows Lt. Jonathan Josey striking Aida Guzman, 39, of Chester.
A still taken from video during Sunday's Puerto Rican Day celebration shows Lt. Jonathan Josey striking Aida Guzman, 39, of Chester.
Posted: October 03, 2012

In his 19-year career as a Philadelphia police officer, Lt. Jonathan Josey has shot and killed an armed robber, endured a stabbing that put him out of work for months, and written newspaper columns on criminal justice. Josey, 39, has also acted in independent films, tried his hand at comedy, and was named a Philadelphia Daily News "Sexy Single" in 2006.

But on Monday, Josey gained national notoriety in the worst way - as the villain in a real-life YouTube video of him punching a woman in the face during Sunday's Puerto Rican Day celebration.

Josey, who is assigned to the highway patrol unit, has been placed on desk duty. The department's Internal Affairs bureau is investigating the incident, which took place in North Philadelphia in the midst of a throng of revelers.

Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross called the footage "disturbing."

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you I didn't have a reaction to it," Ross said. "It's of grave concern."

Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League, which represents the city's black police officers, said Josey would not comment pending the outcome of the investigation. Bilal, who knows Josey well, said she did not know what preceded the video, but she said she would not have thought such actions were in keeping with Josey's character.

"What I've seen is not what I would like any police officer to do to anyone," Bilal said. "I don't know what the investigation is going to reveal. . . . But to me, that behavior is deplorable."

The 35-second video, shot on a cellphone and uploaded to YouTube, quickly spread to national websites Monday morning. It was shot near Fifth Street and Lehigh Avenue on Sunday during a street party that traditionally takes place after the city's annual Puerto Rican Day parade, which was dedicated this year to "The Puerto Rican Woman."

The video captured Josey striking Aida Guzman, 39, of Chester, and Guzman falling to the ground and then being hauled off in handcuffs, her face bloodied.

Seconds before the punch, Guzman can be seen walking and talking near a group of officers clustered around a car. Someone in the crowd (not Guzman) is seen throwing liquid into the air, and Guzman jumps up and down behind the group, holding what appears to be a can or a bottle.

Police said they believed that Guzman threw water or beer at the officers and that as Guzman turned and walked away from the group, Josey walked toward her and knocked her to the ground with a blow to the face.

Standing outside her house in Chester on Monday, Guzman that she threw nothing that that she did not see Josey moving toward her until he punched her. With her 19-year-old daughter, Kay, translating her Spanish, Guzman said she felt sick about what happened.

Guzman showed reporters her split lip and scraped elbows and knuckles. After hitting her, Guzman said, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Josey handed her a summons for disorderly conduct for throwing a water bottle at police.

"If she did it or if she didn't, he had no right to hit her like that," Kay Guzman said. "The video says everything. We are angry."

Aida Guzman, who has five children and works three housekeeping jobs, took her two young children to the parade Sunday and typically goes every year, she said.

Guzman has not decided whether she will pursue the matter, saying she wants to discuss it with her husband first. She said she did not wish Josey harm but did want him punished.

Police are asking that witnesses call the Internal Affairs unit at 215-685-5056.

Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office, said the office cannot act until Internal Affairs has investigated thoroughly.

City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez, who helped organize the parade, said that she spoke with Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey Monday and that Ramsey was particularly upset because the incident involved a commanding officer.

Josey has worked in the 18th Police District and the Narcotics Field Unit and has served as the vice president of the Guardian Civic League. He is well regarded by many in the department, Ross said.

"He is known for being in the right place at the right time, as far as staving off criminal activity," Ross said. "Nobody's ever going to question the fact that he's a very active officer."

Since joining the force in 1993, he has amassed 13 citizen complaints, most of which were filed by people who claimed Josey verbally or physically abused them. The allegations were deemed unfounded or unable to be substantiated, records show.

In 2007 the city paid $7,500 to settle a lawsuit that alleged Josey threw a man against a wall in West Oak Lane, then kicked and punched him while looking for a fellow officer's stolen gun.

In March 2010, when Josey was off-duty, he walked into a 7-Eleven in Bala Cynwyd and interrupted an armed robbery by Kenneth DeShields. When DeShields fled, Josey pursued him and fired when DeShields reached for a gun in his waistband. Josey was cited for bravery by the Citizens Crime Commission and cleared in the shooting.

Three months later, early July 4, Josey was off duty and outside a West Philadelphia bar with another officer when he saw two women arguing with an off-duty female officer. When he intervened, one of the women swung her purse at him, then went to her car, returning with a knife that she plunged three inches into Josey's lower back.

After a Common Pleas Court jury found the woman guilty of aggravated assault, she was sentenced to nine to 20 years in prison. In a letter Josey submitted at the sentencing, he recounted sitting on the sidewalk, bleeding profusely, wondering if he would survive.

Josey was hospitalized for two days, he said, and spent two months recovering. In asking the judge to impose a stiff sentence, he wrote of "the emotional and psychological scars that this incident left me with that I still battle."

Outside work, Josey has acted in several independent movies, according to IMDb.com, and he runs a production company called Brothers in Blue with a friend who is a paramedic.

In 2006, Josey was profiled as one of the Daily News' "Sexy Singles." In the feature, Josey said his "secret wish" was to run for mayor.

Josey also published several opinion pieces in the Philadelphia Daily News. In one, published after the fatal shooting of an armed man in Germantown, Josey blasted critics of the Police Department.

"It never fails that any time a Philadelphia police officer uses deadly force during the course of his duties, along come the cries of outrage from the neighborhood," Josey wrote. "When an officer shoots someone, witnesses come out of the woodwork, but when reckless hoodlums lay siege to these same streets, nobody sees a thing."


Contact Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com.

Staff writer Jonathan Lai contributed to this article.

 

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