PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia police officer captured on video this month pulling down masks and pepper spraying protesters as they knelt on the Vine Street Expressway is Richard P. Nicoletti, a SWAT officer and a 12-year veteran of the force, officials said Monday.
Nicoletti, 35, has been suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss, said Sgt. Eric Gripp, a police spokesperson. Commissioner Danielle Outlaw announced the impending firing last week but declined to identify the officer until his suspension began.
Outlaw and Mayor Jim Kenney described Nicoletti's actions on the highway as unacceptable, and District Attorney Larry Krasner has said his office is exploring possible criminal charges.
"I was disgusted," Outlaw said of Nicoletti's actions while addressing reporters last week.
John McNesby, president of the officers' union, said Monday that protesters had created a dangerous situation by entering the highway, and that he wasn't sure if the video of Nicoletti captured the entirety of what might have prompted him to use pepper spray.
"It doesn't look pretty, but I'd like to see the whole video," McNesby said. "And when did we think kneeling on 676 was kind of normal?"
McNesby said the union would defend Nicoletti as his disciplinary process played out. Meanwhile, an online fund-raising effort had attracted nearly $5,000 in donations for Nicoletti as of Monday afternoon.
Nicoletti joined the Police Department in 2008, according to payroll records. As of last year, his salary was $76,187.
A website for the fund-raising effort said Nicoletti was an expectant father and Army veteran who had deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan. It said that during the city's recent unrest, Nicoletti was struck in a leg with a brick but continued working.
"Rich was unjustly fired for the performance of his duties," the site said. "His actions have been condemned for political gain and in turn they are throwing their sheepdog to the wolves."