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October 22, 2020

SEPTA police officer charged in alleged baton assault on protesters

Matthew Sinkiewicz accused of striking two protesters last spring near the controversial Frank Rizzo statue

Investigations Assaults
Rizzo SEPTA Assault Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

During a May 30 demonstration at the Frank Rizzo statue — which has been removed from the steps of Philly's Municipal Services Building — SEPTA Police Sergeant Matthew Sinkiewicz allegedly assaulted two protesters with his baton.

A SEPTA police sergeant who allegedly struck two protesters on the head with his baton now faces criminal charges stemming from the incident, which occurred in Center City amid demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality.

Matthew Sinkiewicz, 36, of Bensalem, is accused of striking two unnamed protesters multiple times during a tense interaction in front of the Municipal Services Building on May 30. Protesters and police had gathered around the statue of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, which has since been removed from the location.

The protesters suffered injuries, including lacerations that required treatment at a hospital.

Following the incident, Sinkiewicz allegedly submitted paperwork that did not accurately reflect what happened during his interaction with the protesters, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office said Thursday.

An investigation by the SEPTA Transit Police Department produced findings that led to charges of aggravated assault, official oppression, recklessly endangering another person and unsworn falsification to authorities, among related offenses.

"The civil disorder that occurred in Philadelphia on May 30 did not take away the responsibility of our member to follow the Transit Police rules and expectations for professional conduct," SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III said. "Our response to resistance must be appropriate, and when it is not, the member will be held responsible."

District Attorney Larry Krasner added that law enforcement must always take an "even-handed approach" in applying justice.

Sinkiewicz is the latest law enforcement officer to face charges arising from clashes with protesters last spring, when civil unrest erupted in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

A Minnesota judge dropped a third-degree murder charge Thursday against Derek Chauvin, one of four former Minneapolis officers who were charged in the incident. Chauvin is still charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Former Philadelphia police officer Richard Paul Nicoletti was charged over the summer after an investigation into his use of pepper spray against protesters on I-676 on June 1. Former Philadelphia Police Inspector Joseph Bologna also was charged with assault for allegedly striking a 21-year-old Temple University student over the head with his metal baton in early June.

In August, Mural Arts Philadelphia unveiled Crown, a new project at the Municipal Services Building that supports Black Lives Matter and efforts to address racial injustice and inequality.