A police union claimed that Philadelphia officers rescued a child “lost during the violent riots,” only to remove the statement that critics slammed Friday as “propaganda.”
Video recorded early Tuesday captured Philadelphia police surrounding an SUV, which appeared to be driving away from a protest, before smashing out windows and forcibly removing a woman and baby from the car.
A lawyer for the woman says it was her baby that appeared in the police union photo.
The confrontation unfolded in the 5200 block of Chestnut Street when the sports utility vehicle could be seen driving toward a large gathering of officers and demonstrators protesting the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr.
The driver, 28-year-old nursing aide Rickia Young, was following police orders to leave the area and was in the middle of a three-point turn when officers smashed out her windows with their batons, according to one of her attorneys, Thomas Fitzpatrick.
“This is the situation where we believe police were simply out of control and attacked her vehicle without any provocation,” Fitzpatrick told NBC News on Friday.
The incident is now being examined by the department’s Internal Affairs Division, and one officer has been placed on “restricted duty pending the outcome of the investigation,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw told reporters on Friday.
“I still don’t know all the details, but I will tell you, after viewing the video, what I saw was quite concerning,” Outlaw added. “But I am very careful about what I say, because I do not know all the circumstances around it, as far as what led up to it.”
Fitzpatrick said Young was handcuffed and separated from her 16-year-old nephew and 2-year-old son for several hours, and no one was charged or cited.
The hearing-impaired toddler lost his hearing aids during the tussle and police still hadn’t returned the vehicle to Young by Friday morning, Fitzpatrick added.
The Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police labor union, posted a Facebook picture early Thursday morning showing Young’s 2-year-old in the arms of a Philadelphia police officer just after the incident.
“This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness,” the union said on Facebook. “The only thing this Philadelphia Police Officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child.”
Fitzpatrick called the post “propaganda” and said the child was not in harm’s way until police stopped the SUV from leaving. The union’s post was later deleted, but could still be found via Google’s web cache.
“This was a child who was properly secured in the back seat and then police began beating on the vehicle,” Fitzpatrick said.
In a statement on Friday, the National Fraternal Order of Police admitted that it had “posted a photo of a Philadelphia police officer carrying a young child” and described the circumstances as a “scene of a civil disturbance.”
“The National FOP subsequently learned of conflicting accounts of the circumstances under which the child came to be assisted by the officer and immediately took the photo and caption down,” the union statement continued.
Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier, who represents the neighborhood where the incident happened, decried police action and the union’s original statement.
“That child is likely traumatized, and the incident was used as propaganda by the national FOP,” Gauthier said in a statement to NBC News. “The whole situation is frankly appalling.”
Councilwoman Gauthier said the officers were out of line.
“What we saw in that video was very disturbing,” Gauthier said. “I can’t imagine any scenario in which this response would be appropriate.”