When Enough is Enough: The Arrest of Montrice Bolden and Police Brutality in Erie, PA
Erie, PA (July 22, 2016)- Members of the Take Back Our Streets Movement and citizens of Erie, PA come together for a peace rally to demand justice for Montrice Bolden. Photo Credit: Lauren Benzo
“Enough is Enough!” are the words that many citizens of Erie have been repeating over the past month. Erie native Cole “Cole the Barber” Stewart wanted to conduct a peace rally on Friday, July 15th, 2016 in order to bring peace and unity to the citizens of Erie. Yet, to also shine light on the subject of police brutality. A day before the peace rally was scheduled, Cole received a phone call from a undisclosed person of Erie. This person stated that since the Erie branded bike rally “Roar on the Shore” was going on during that week, it would have not been a good idea to conduct the peace rally at that time. Cole then decided to postpone the peace rally for another date.
Within four days, social media accounts of citizens from Erie were on fire due to a tape being release to Erie News Now. While viewing the tape, you see a man being arrested with excessive force by punches and kicks to his face. The man in the video is 41 year old Montrice Bolden. According to the affidavit of probable cause, Bolden was in possession of a controlled substance while sitting in his vehicle and allegedly “flicked” a lit cigar at an officer, and then attempted to flee. He then allegedly punched an officer in the face. It was also stated in the affidavit that Bolden allegedly attempted to disarm one of the officers while they were trying to gain control over him.
Even though these alleged actions were listed in the affidavit, those actions were not seen in the footage that was given to Erie New Now. The actions that were viewed on Erie News Now were in the midst of the arrest and the family of Bolden and others are questioning whether the officers went too far with their use of force.
According to Erie News Now, Bolden’s attorney Thomas Fitzpatrick stated, “The video speaks for itself. Kicking a suspect in the face is not appropriate. Punching someone who is not drawing any punches is not appropriate. Slamming someone’s head against the cruiser, slamming someone’s head against the door jam, none of those things were an appropriate use of force.”
Bolden suffered an orbital fracture, cranial fracture, and other injuries including internal bleeding during the arrest according to his family.
After the release of the video, there have been different opinions of the situation. Some viewers stated that the police had the right to use the type of force that was seen on the tape because of the alleged actions Bolden is accused of that is stated in the affidavit. Some viewers actually agreed with Bolden’s family and stated that the video showed use of excessive force and they were wondering why the actions of the officers were not being brought to the forefront.
This is not the first time the Erie Police Department has been under fire in the public eye. According to the Beaver County Times (Associated Press) in 1993, relatives of a 36 year old man named David Johnson, were seeking more that $1.5 million in damages due to his death. The suit stated that Johnson was “brutality and unjustifiably chocked and terrorized” by the Erie police officers. The suit went on to say during the struggle with the officers, an officer planted his right hand on Johnson’s neck and 30 seconds later, Johnson went limp. His death was ruled “death by accident” by the Erie County coroner’s jury in August in 1991.
In 2009, an off duty City of Erie Police officer was caught on tape “joking” about the death of a man that was murdered stating, “One less drug dealer to deal with.” That footage made it to CNN. Kevin Flowers of Erie Times News recently wrote an article stating Federal Law Enforcement officials have investigated in cases of alleged excessive force in the city from Erie that are from the past and present date. Many citizens of Erie are aware that the FBI is doing some internal work yet many citizens are questioning the reason why the officers caught on tape are still able to continue to work and “protect” their city.
On July 22, members of Erie, PA and the “Take Back Our Streets” movement of Erie, PA wanted to take a message to the streets of Erie, which was loud and clear. They want the officers that were present in the video of the arrest of Montrice Bolden to step down, lose their jobs, and/ or be placed under arrest for assault. Dozens of rally goers were chanting for not only “peace” in the city of Erie but also for justice for Bolden. Including chants of “Deluca Must Go”, meaning the resignation of one the officers that is involved in the case whom has a lengthy record of using excessive force and blackmail.
Another peace rally was scheduled for the following day, until the administrators of the “Take Our Streets Back” movement of Erie, PA became aware of correctional officers of the Erie County Prison threating to come to the rally to “bring their guns” and to “bring two spare mags to work in the ballpark of 59 rounds”. The group made sure that peace rally goers were aware of the threats and the march went on without incident. The administrators then stated that they were going to meet with community leaders on the July 28 in Perry Square.
On July 26, Erie News Now announced that the United States Department of Justice is investigating the June 27 arrest of Bolden. According to Erie News Now, the United States Attorney for the Western District of PA announced that the investigation was opened from 7-10 days of the 26th of July and he met with the Mayor Joe Sinnott and members of Unified Erie.
Hickson stated “It’s a full-scale investigation that may lead to outcomes that are either in the area of our criminal responsibilities, our civil responsibilities, or we might take no action, it depends.” Hickson went on to say, “We need to make sure that those who are entrusted with a badge and a gun live to the public trust that they have been given.”
The mayor finally broke his silence on the actions of the officers that were caught on tape by TJ's Traffic Jam's surveillance cameras on July 28th. Mayor Joe Sinnot, along with the Erie police chief Randy Bowers stated during a press conference that they will conduct an independent review on the force that was used by the officers in the arrest of Bolden and also stated to please not rush to judgment. Moments after the press conference, members of the Citizens and Clergy, Take Back Our Streets, and citizen of Erie came together in Perry Square for the “Public Demonstration Against Excessive Force.” There were speeches, togetherness, and demands for justice. For not only Bolden, but every human has be subjected to police brutality.
There is currently an ongoing investigation and the whole city of Erie is watching. Some people have hope of justice for Bolden and others have thoughts of this situation ending as other police brutality cases in the past. Having trust in the Erie Police Department is very important to the citizens of Erie. Yet, they can not put their all in a police force that is not willing to punish their employees for their heinous actions.