Update: assault charges reinstated against former officer

A Philadelphia judge has reinstated charges of simple assault and unlawful restraint against Aleksander Shwarz, a former Philadelphia police officer arrested earlier this year for allegedly assaulting and falsely prosecuting a Northeast businessman following an argument.

Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Palumbo on Thursday reinstated the two charges dismissed at an April 18 preliminary hearing by Municipal Court Judge James M. DeLeon.

DeLeon had ordered Shwarz, 55, an officer for 21 years, to stand trial on charges of obstruction of justice, unsworn falsification to authorities, filing false reports and official oppression. Assistant District Attorney Erica Wilson then filed a motion to have Shwarz rearrested on the dismissed counts, which led to the hearing before Palumbo.

Though defense attorney Gerald S. Stanshine argued that DeLeon’s findings should stand, Palumbo reinstated the counts after watching a 15- to 20-second security camera video of the March 10 arrest of Dominic Catalano, then manager of a U-Haul store in the 7700 block of Roosevelt Boulevard.

Catalano testified at the preliminary hearing that the incident occurred when Shwarz and a partner responded to his call about a stolen truck.

Catalano said the truck had been found at Philadelphia International Airport and he wanted the officers to remove it from the stolen vehicle list so he could put it back into his rental fleet.

When the officers said the truck was in Delaware County and he would have to call police there, Catalano said he became frustrated, believing the officers did not want to be bothered. Catalano said he asked for their names and badge numbers but the officers refused and told him to call 911 and ask for a supervisor.

On the video, Catalano follows the officers out of the store and passes Shwarz as the officer approaches the driver’s door of the patrol car. Shwarz reaches out his right arm to grab Catalano’s shoulder and Catalano dips his shoulder and keeps walking toward his store.

Shwarz then follows Catalano and accosts him at the door, pushing him against the wall as his partner comes from the car to help Shwarz cuff Catalano.

Shwarz charged Catalano with assaulting an officer and told detectives Catalano swore at him and “shouldered me.”

Catalano testified that he did not know why he was arrested but that, in the patrol car, Shwarz told him, “We’re going to teach you a lesson.”

But 24 hours later, Catalano was freed when the District Attorney’s office refused to prosecute after viewing the video and hearing accounts of another store worker and two customers who watched the arrest from inside the store.

Shwarz’s partner was not charged.