Man beaten by police in 2013 dies in shooting

Najee Rivera with his then-girlfriend and their daughter. He was shot at C and Somerset Sts. In 2013, Rivera was beaten by police and accused of assaulting an officer. Video told a different tale.

A North Philadelphia man who was severely beaten by two police officers in 2013 - an incident that led to charges of assault against both officers - has died from injuries sustained in a shooting this month.

Najee Rivera, 23, was shot once in the right side at C and Somerset Streets on Dec. 5. A law enforcement source said that a group of women had been fighting at that corner and that Rivera had gotten involved.

Witnesses and officers in an unmarked car heard a gunshot, and dozens of people scattered.

A group of men were carrying Rivera as police arrived. Rivera collapsed near the officers' car.

He was taken to Temple University Hospital in critical condition, and clung to life for 15 days. He died Sunday.

Police said no motive was apparent in the case.

In 2013, Rivera was riding his scooter in North Philadelphia when he was pulled over by two patrol officers from the 25th District, Kevin Robinson and Sean McKnight.

Rivera would later tell the police that Robinson and McKnight got out of their car with their batons raised, and that he fled, frightened.

Prosecutors said the officers pursued him without their lights or sirens on and caught up to him on the 2700 block of North Sixth Street.

The officers told their superiors that Rivera had thrown Robinson into a brick wall and tried to grab McKnight's baton. Rivera was arrested and accused of assaulting a police officer.

But surveillance footage that later surfaced - found after Rivera's girlfriend canvassed North Sixth Street herself - exonerated Rivera and led to assault, conspiracy, and false-arrest charges against both officers.

Instead of a fight between a violent suspect and two police officers, the video showed Robinson and McKnight knocking Rivera from his scooter and hitting him with fists and batons, fracturing his orbital bone and cutting his face.

Robinson and McKnight's case is scheduled for trial in April. Both are free on bail.

Rivera had struggled in the years since the beating. He lost a janitorial job at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. His girlfriend, who is the mother of his baby daughter, took out a restraining order against him. In October, he was charged with harassment and drug possession.

Rivera settled a lawsuit against the city for $200,000, but told The Inquirer this year that much of the money had gone toward legal costs and medical bills. He told the newspaper he was looking for a new start.

"My plan is to start from the bottom again," he said then.

awhelan@philly.com

215-854-2961

@aubreyjwhelan