Cambridge police were arresting Selorm Ohene, a 21-year-old black Harvard student who is studying mathematics, when the Friday night arrest turned violent, with newly released video showing officers piling on and punching him. The department has launched an internal investigation into the incident.
Video of the arrest, released Sunday by police, shows Ohene standing naked in the median of a street surrounded by a number of cops. At one point he steps towards one officer and a second officer dives for his legs and tackles him to the ground. The other officers pile on top of him and he can be heard shouting in distress. As The New York Times reports, “the police have acknowledged that an officer punched him five times in the stomach.”
The cops claim that Ohene was on drugs and hostile when they attacked him. But the Harvard Black Law Students Association, some of whose members were at the scene, disputed this account in a statement, writing that “without provocation,” the officers “lunged at [Ohene], tackled him, and pinned him to the ground.” They noted that “a pool of blood remained on the pavement as the ambulance departed.” The group also said that Ohene was unarmed as he stood on the median.
The officers involved have not been placed on administrative leave, Cambridge police commissioner Branville Bard Jr. said in a press conference, as reported by the Times. Ohene remains in the hospital and under police watch. He has been charged with indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, assault, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on ambulance personnel, but has not been arraigned because he is still undergoing mental health examinations.
Ohene’s lawyers, who noted their client’s desire for privacy, released a statement asserting simply that “The video speaks for itself.”