Philly ex-cop who pepper sprayed protester charged with assault

Lauren Theisen, New York Daily News

A recently fired Philadelphia cop who was caught on video pepper spraying kneeling protesters on I-676 last month was charged with three counts of assault by city DA Larry Krasner on Wednesday.

Officer Richard Nicoletti, 35, was one of many cops nationwide whose excessive tactics against Black Lives Matter protesters came under scrutiny in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. In the video that led to the charges, Nicoletti was seen spraying a trio of protesters “without provocations,” according to Krasner.

Krasner’s statement also said that Nicoletti pulled down the goggles of a kneeling protester and “violently” threw another onto his back so the officer could start “continually spraying him with [pepper spray] while he was lying down and standing back up.” The DA added that the protester, blinded by the spray, was left dangerous close to moving cars on the other side of the highway.

Following an internal affairs investigation, Nicoletti was fired last month.

“The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office will not make excuses for crimes committed by law enforcement that demean the democratic freedoms so many Americans have fought and died to preserve,” Krasner said in a statement.

The incident involving Nicoletti happened during a protest on the evening of June 1, when peaceful demonstrators managed to stop traffic on the highway. The few protesters sprayed by the officer initially remained kneeling after the authorities used tear gas to clear most of the crowd. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw have both since apologized for using tear gas at that time.

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