“There’s no victim here,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said at a press conference Tuesday.
That conclusion might come as a surprise to the countless people who watched a bystander video of off-duty Boston police officer Edward Barrett’s brazen road rage attack on a pedestrian in May.
In the video, Barrett is seen using his knee to pin Milton Gurin, then 64, to the ground. Gurin said that Barrett nearly struck him with a vehicle while he was trying to cross the street, so he tapped on the officer’s window with his umbrella, which prompted the attack.
Barrett falsely claimed that Gurin broke his window, told him he was under arrest, and called for backup. Responding officers determined there was nothing but a smudge on Barrett’s window and released Gurin with no charges.
But Evans said there were only “minor issues” with Barrett’s actions. Evans defended Barrett, saying that Gurin crossed the street against the light and that the officer “believed” Gurin broke his window, which would have been felony had it happened outside of the officer’s imagination.
Evans said that after speaking with a number of witnesses, including Gurin himself, and watching more video of the incident, the department refuted excessive force allegations made by Stephen Harlowe, the man who shot the viral video that brought the incident to the public’s attention.
According to Evans, Gurin “wasn’t violently tackled, his head wasn’t slammed to the ground, and his hair wasn’t pulled”—he just tripped after Barrett chased him.
“All I see here is an officer having his knee in someone’s back,” Evans said dismissively.
But Carl Williams, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts lawyer who is representing Gurin, said the force was still unjustified because his client didn’t commit a crime.
According to Williams: “You have an officer up there saying, ‘This is what we’re trained to do.’ Well, then that’s terrifying. If you’re training your police officers to jump on people who are of the age Mr. Gurin is, and to put their knee in their back and put all their weight on them, that’s worrisome—because no crime was committed.”
Williams pointed out that Barrett could have simply looked at the window to check for damage before deciding to chase Gurin.
Williams said Gurin tapped Barrett’s window with a “very small, plastic umbrella” and started running “because someone was yelling at him.”
“[Gurin] was in fear,” Williams said. “[He] started to get chased down the street, and was running because a person was chasing him, and fell because a person was chasing him, and was injured because a person was chasing him.”
Williams added that the outcome of the investigation may “embolden police to do more physically harmful activities to Boston civilians.”
Evans said that “there will be some counseling” but no disciplinary action for Barrett. Evans said Barrett should have identified himself as an officer sooner and called a supervisor to the scene.
Prior to the road rage incident, Barrett had two excessive force complaints that the police department did not sustain.
In an interview in June, Evans said Barrett’s supervisors described the 20-year veteran of the police force as a “quiet kid,” and he said the officer was not a “threat” to the public.
Barrett was not placed on leave during the investigation. Last year, he made $105,754.37.
Williams would not comment to reporters on whether Gurin plans to file a lawsuit.