Video shows Cambridge police tackle and punch black Harvard student during arrest

Cambridge police have launched an internal investigation after a video showed officers tackling and punching a naked ...

Posted: Apr 17, 2018 9:02 PM
Updated: Apr 17, 2018 9:02 PM

Cambridge police have launched an internal investigation after a video showed officers tackling and punching a naked black Harvard student who police said was resisting arrest.

According to a police report on the incident, officers responding to multiple calls about a disturbance at a busy intersection late Friday found Selorm Ohene, 21, naked and acting in an "aggressive, unreceptive, and intimidating" manner. They were also told by Ohene's friends that he had possibly taken LSD or another hallucinogenic drug, the report said.

Police said they tried to reason with Ohene but he became more hostile and would not comply with their demands, so they took him down, according to the report. He still would not allow the officers to handcuff him, so one officer "delivered approximately 5 strikes with a closed fists to the area of his stomach. These seemed ineffective," the police report said.

Ohene was eventually handcuffed, shackled and placed in an ambulance, where he spat blood and saliva at the emergency medical technicians, the report said. He has been charged with indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault, and assault and battery on ambulance personnel, the police report said.

'Video speaks for itself,' attorneys say

Lawyers for Ohene said in a statement Tuesday their client, who is studying mathematics at Harvard, is recovering from injuries "sustained during his encounter with the Cambridge Police Department."

CNN affiliate WCVB reported the student was in police custody as of Monday evening, but was in a hospital undergoing a mental evaluation. It's unclear from the police report what his injuries are, or the severity of them.

"This has been and continues to be a trying ordeal for Selorm and for his family," said his attorneys, Prof. Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., who is the director of Harvard Law School's Criminal Justice Institute, and Prof. Dehlia Umunna, the deputy director of the institute.

"Although there has been significant extrajudicial commentary on Selorm's case, we do not intend to litigate these matters in the media. As the public is aware, several students captured the incident on their cell phones. The video speaks for itself. At this time, our focus is on Selorm's health and well-being," the attorneys' statement added.

Harvard University President Drew Faust called the incident "profoundly disturbing."

"A Harvard student was in obvious distress, and we need to understand how that came to be and whether we could have interceded earlier and more effectively," she said in a statement Monday.

"We do not yet know all the facts, and it will take time before the necessary reviews have been completed and we have a fuller understanding of events leading up to the incident and the incident itself. But what we do know raises important issues about the relationship between police and the communities they serve, student health resources, and the manner in which University units operate with each other and with our partners in the community," Faust said in the statement.

What happened

Officer Steven Burke said in the incident report that after officers' efforts to calm down and reason with Ohene failed, he saw the man clench both of his fists and take steps toward another officer. He described Ohene's behavior as "chaotic and tumultuous."

"I perceived this as a threat and thought an attack was imminent," Burke said in the report. "It should be noted that Ohene is approximately 6 feet tall with a muscular build."

A video of the incident shows one officer tackling Ohene from behind as he walked toward another officer. Ohene then yells as three other officers jump on him.

Two officers were treated at a hospital for minor injuries and unprotected exposure to body fluids, police said.

The Cambridge Police Department's leadership and Professional Standards Unit will conduct an internal review of the incident, per department policy.

"Use of force was required in order to effectuate the male's arrest," Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard Jr. said in a statement. "In a rapidly-evolving situation, as this was, the officers' primary objective is to neutralize an incident to ensure the safety of the involved party(ies), officers and members of the public."

Outrage grows

The Harvard Black Law Students Association said in a statement Saturday that Harvard has "ample resources that could have, and should have, been mobilized to come to the student's aid" before police were called.

"The conduct of the CPD on the evening of April 13, 2018 was unacceptable," the statement read. "We are reminded, as soon-to-be-graduates of an elite law school that we cannot protect our bodies with our degrees -- and that is why we also call our current students and alumni to embrace these demands as inclusive to all Black people, not just Harvardians."

The organization is demanding that Harvard University and the university's health services and police department create an internal crisis response team to support students, faculty, and staff that does not involve Cambridge police. They're also calling for the school, students and instructors to put pressure on the Cambridge Police Department.

The association wants the officers involved in the altercation be held accountable and investigated. They also called for police to respect people's First Amendment right to record video of police activity. There were about 30 onlookers during the incident, police said.

Bard said Monday authorities have no evidence that police asked people to stop filming the incident, but if there is such evidence, the department wants to know.

"We would want to be aware of that because that would be in violation of our policies," Jeremy Warnick, the communications director for the Cambridge Police Department, told CNN Tuesday.

Cambridge Mayor Marc C. McGovern said "what is shown on the video is disturbing."

"We have high standards for our police officers in Cambridge. In most cases, the extensive training our officers go through results in the de-escalation of dangerous situations. When confrontations cannot be averted and include the use of physical force, we must be willing to review our actions to ensure that our police officers are providing the highest level of safety for all," he said in a statement Saturday.

Faust, Harvard's president, added that witnessing a use of force incident against a member of the Harvard community was "upsetting and compels the search for a deeper understanding."

"Over the coming days, we will be seeking to determine what Harvard, as an institution, can learn from the incident," she said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 74328

Reported Deaths: 3041
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15860725
Lake7570275
Elkhart484384
Allen3902163
St. Joseph350081
Hamilton2763104
Vanderburgh196313
Hendricks1887108
Cass17959
Johnson1757118
Porter131639
Clark123347
Tippecanoe121111
Madison97965
LaPorte91130
Howard89065
Kosciusko85212
Bartholomew79347
Marshall78422
Floyd77946
Monroe75630
Delaware73052
Dubois69612
Boone67846
Noble67829
Hancock66038
Vigo65110
Jackson5865
Warrick58130
LaGrange55910
Shelby55327
Grant52630
Dearborn50828
Morgan47634
Clinton4343
Henry38320
Wayne37710
White36910
Montgomery35421
Lawrence34627
Harrison33823
Decatur33732
Putnam2888
Miami2742
Daviess27320
Scott26810
Greene25034
Jasper2432
Franklin24214
DeKalb2324
Gibson2254
Jennings22512
Steuben2103
Ripley2087
Carroll1912
Fayette1897
Perry18612
Starke1787
Orange17124
Posey1710
Wabash1693
Fulton1682
Wells1682
Jefferson1632
Knox1540
Whitley1526
Washington1401
Tipton13810
Spencer1363
Sullivan1261
Huntington1223
Randolph1224
Clay1215
Newton11810
Adams1012
Jay910
Owen901
Pulaski831
Rush804
Fountain742
Brown731
Ohio655
Blackford642
Benton610
Pike530
Switzerland520
Vermillion520
Parke511
Crawford450
Martin450
Union410
Warren221
Unassigned0206

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 100848

Reported Deaths: 3669
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin18317524
Cuyahoga13514499
Hamilton9643255
Lucas5348323
Montgomery436294
Summit3555222
Butler292963
Marion292545
Mahoning2554255
Pickaway238742
Stark1827139
Warren178939
Lorain177078
Columbiana165860
Trumbull1524106
Fairfield138732
Delaware130119
Licking128149
Clark114614
Lake111438
Wood104358
Clermont93311
Medina92335
Miami83938
Tuscarawas78214
Portage75861
Allen74044
Greene69012
Belmont62126
Mercer61213
Richland60412
Erie57527
Ashtabula56946
Geauga55644
Wayne53958
Ross4844
Huron3965
Darke39529
Ottawa38626
Hancock3783
Sandusky37716
Madison37410
Athens3571
Holmes3286
Lawrence2830
Auglaize2546
Union2511
Muskingum2361
Jefferson2292
Scioto2261
Seneca2143
Knox2057
Putnam20517
Preble2032
Washington20322
Shelby1944
Coshocton1936
Champaign1762
Crawford1745
Morrow1702
Hardin16512
Clinton1646
Highland1581
Logan1552
Fulton1481
Wyandot1468
Ashland1443
Defiance1444
Williams1353
Perry1303
Brown1292
Hocking1189
Guernsey1177
Henry1172
Fayette1130
Carroll1115
Monroe9318
Pike760
Jackson740
Van Wert711
Paulding690
Gallia651
Adams612
Meigs400
Vinton312
Harrison261
Morgan260
Noble160
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Few Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 72°
Angola
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 72°
Huntington
Broken Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 71°
Decatur
70° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 70°
Van Wert
70° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 70°
Storms return for Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events