DA Krasner Announces Assault Charges Against PPD Inspector & Detective
Jane Roh, 215–686–8711, Jane.Roh@phila.gov
PHILADELPHIA (April 1, 2021) — District Attorney Larry Krasner on Thursday announced criminal charges against Philadelphia Police Department Inspector James Smith (DOB: 10/26/1968) and former Detective Patrick Smith (DOB: 08/07/1967) for their roles in an off-duty vehicular pursuit and assault of a 27-year-old man with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, last summer.
Shortly after midnight on August 19, 2020, the victim while on foot was chased by two males in a car before stopping in a shopping center parking lot at Fairdale Road and Knights Road in Northeast Philadelphia. Inspector Smith and Detective Smith, both off duty, are alleged to have identified themselves as “Town Watch.” The defendants are further alleged to have chased the victim on foot, grabbed him, pushed and slammed him into a wall, and forced him to the ground, causing injuries including a black eye and abrasions on the back of his head, elbows, and knees.
Prior to the physical assault, the complainant, out of breath and running, called his mother. The complainant’s mother heard a voice say, “Hold his legs,” before the call abruptly ended.
The complainant’s mother used a cell phone app to track his location to the shopping center parking lot where the assault occurred. When the complainant’s father arrived to the scene, Inspector Smith and Detective Smith again identified themselves as “Town Watch.”
Philadelphia Police Internal Affairs initiated an investigation of the incident on August 21st. Detective Smith retired from the department on September 3rd. Inspector Smith and former Detective Smith, who are brothers, were arrested by Philadelphia Police earlier today.
“Following a Philadelphia Police Internal Affairs investigation of this incident, two high-ranking officers were arrested and criminally charged today. The allegations here involve vigilantism and brutality against civilians, which cannot be tolerated in the City of Philadelphia,” District Attorney Krasner said. “It is truly disturbing that the victim, who has Asperger syndrome, may have struggled to communicate his distress and fear. Additionally, the defendants’ claims at the time that they were members of a ‘town watch,’ that the victim was involved in thefts from vehicles in the area, or that the victim’s injuries were caused by a trip and fall were not corroborated by investigation. This remains an active investigation, and as with all criminal investigations at this stage, the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
James Smith and Patrick Smith are each charged with Simple Assault (M2), Conspiracy (M2), and Recklessly Endangering Another Person (M2). The Special Investigations Unit of the District Attorney’s Office will prosecute this matter. Autism Speaks, a national organization that advocates for the needs and rights of people with autism, provides information and training for law enforcement and first responders.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million residents of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives, and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of approximately 40,000 criminal cases annually.