Boston Police Say Officer in Back Bay Video Did Not Use Excessive Force

Commissioner William Evans says the man in the video was not tackled. He tripped.

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photo via Facebook/Stephen Harlowe

Four months after video surfaced of a Boston cop’s handling of a man he accused of hitting his car with an umbrella, police say the officer did not use excessive force.

In the video from May 24, off-duty police officer Edward Barrett can be seen pinning 54-year-old Milton Gurin down on the sidewalk in the Back Bay near the intersection of Arlington and Boylston streets. Barrett can then be seen hoisting Gurin up and leading him down the street while grabbing the collar of his shirt. The person who shot the video, Stephen Harlowe, alleged in the video and in a subsequent Facebook post that Barrett tackled Gurin, grabbed his hair, and shoved the man’s head into the sidewalk before he started filming the encounter.

But after a months-long internal investigation, police are now officially contradicting much of that story.

“He wasn’t injured, he wasn’t tackled, and his head wasn’t slammed into the ground,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said at a press conference Tuesday.

Instead, Evans said, Gurin tripped while running away from Barrett, and when the officer caught up to the man, he pushed his knee into his back to hold him in place on the sidewalk—a move that officials told reporters is consistent with what is taught at police academies.

Evans said the investigation included seven witnesses—including two people who were with Harlowe while he was shooting the video—and a review of grainy security camera footage, which police played for reporters at BPD headquarters.

Evans said Gurin, himself, told police during the investigation that he tripped, and that his head had not been forced into the sidewalk.

Harlowe, meanwhile, has stuck by the version of events he described in the video and in a subsequent Facebook post, police say.

The encounter began when Gurin allegedly crossed the street against a green light. He then, allegedly, struck Barrett’s personal car with an umbrella while the officer was driving through the intersection. Then, Gurin ran away and Barrett chased after him. Barrett has said he believed at the time that his car’s window had been damaged by the umbrella. The marking on the window ended up being a smudge that wiped away.

Barrett, who at the time patrolled West Roxbury, will not be punished for the way he handled the incident. Evans did, however, fault the officer for not adequately identifying himself to bystanders during the arrest. For this, Barrett will be asked to undergo counseling, Evans said.

Neither Gurin nor Harlowe are facing charges.

Below is the video police showed to media Tuesday. The security camera footage, which had not previously been released publicly, begins at the 8:10 mark. The tapping of the windshield and the alleged tripping are not discernible from the clip.