On social he’s known as OhNoItsDaPoPo and his posts mostly consist of positive, and often funny or poignant, interactions in the predominately African-American Columbus, Ohio community he serves. Known also as the ‘Dancing Cop,’ he’s got nearly 70,000 followers on Facebook and more than 80,000 on Instagram. A motivational speaker and mentor, he’s renowned for his work as a community police officer.
But Columbus Police Officer Anthony L. Johnson, who goes by “Officer AJ” on the street, is at the center of an incident of alleged police brutality based on a viral video snippet where he’s seen pushing and punching an unarmed young black man.
The incident occurred on Friday June 7 at around 4 p.m. in Columbus.
On Twitter and elsewhere, there’s widespread outrage over the officer’s conduct as is seen in the 40-second clip. But the Columbus Police Department, who is said to be investigating the matter, released a police body-worn camera recording of the entire exchange between police and members of the Columbus neighborhood where the incident goes down. That Johnson apparently pushes and strikes the man appears to be clear. But there are mixed views on his motivation and justification.
“There you have it, body cam shows the whole truth, not just the punch taken out of context, good job CPD,” is a top comment on the Columbus Division of Police YouTube channel where the bodycam is posted.
Another comment also on the CPD YouTube post: “These officers do not know how to talk to people who are agitated without agitating them even more. Like I know some of your men are CIT trained. I know because I’ve helped them! You all really need to go back and get that training. This is cringeworthy!”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Video Appears to Show the Heavily Armed ‘Dancing Cop’ Shove & Then Punch an Unarmed Man
In the video clip widely seen on various verified Twitter accounts, the action begins with Johnson approaching a man who’s already involved in an interaction with another officer when he shoves and then punched the man who hits the ground and is soon swarmed by other officers who place him under arrest.
The reactions by many on the video have similar themes.
“And good cops wonder why no one respects or trusts them. These officers should be arrested, tried and doing time.”
“I’m getting really tired of this. How do we fix our society?” There is no excuse.”
That Johnson shoves and punches the man is clear. The video has been viewed and shared hundreds of thousands of times. Columbus Police responded not long after the video went viral.
2. Columbus Police Responded: ‘While Uses of Force Can Appear Shocking, the Officer on Preliminary Review Was Protecting Bystanders …’
Police responded to a call of shots-fired. Some have said it was actually fireworks though police have not confirmed that. In any event, many officers showed up and several are holding their firearms as they begin an engagement with a number of people, some apparently family members. More context for the incident police said in a tweet, would come: “Chief Quinlan reviewed the officers body ? video & while uses of force can appear shocking the officer on preliminary review was protecting bystanders during a call for service where guns were fired. Full investigation to follow. Be patient. We’ll release the BWC Monday.
“The ‘right thing’ is to stop gas-lighting the public when anyone watching can see that the unarmed man was standing there peacefully and the police SHOVED him when it is their JOB to DE-escalate. Somehow they never have that trouble when the unarmed person is white.”
“One does not protect bystanders by cold-cocking them.”
3. A Near Hour-Long BodyCam Video Shows Johnson’s Shove & Punch but Also What Came Before & After; Some Applaud Police While Others Maintain Johnson Was Out of Line
In the first minute of the video, which actually contains a number of recordings strung together that are viewed from both officer and police cruiser camera points-of-view, a woman carrying two very young children crosses the street toward where an officer, backed by several other officers, has a man against a car. They shout for her to not come near the location and that’s when the young man with the white t-shirt and dreadlocks runs across after her. A woman can be heard screaming concern about her grandchildren and her son. It’s at that point that Johnson appears to rush toward the man, shove and then punch him.
The remainder of the video, with 3 officers’ body worn cameras and 2 cruiser cameras, shows the entire followup between police and the residents.
These two comments on the body-worn camera videos encapsulate the opposing positions some people appear to have:
“This guy aggressively ran up on the officer striking a combative posture. Common sense 101…..Obey the commands of law enforcement.”
“This was totally uncalled for. It is not against the law to yell at an officer. He was not a threat!!”
4. Johnson Is Known on Social Media as ‘OhNoItsDaPoPo’; a Sought-After ‘Motivational Speaker.’ The Video Has Called Into Question His Conduct, Some Say
On his Facebook account, Johnson has 69,000 followers. His posts of his interactions in the community he serves are seen by many, based on ‘likes’ and comments, as uplifting, genuine and often funny or touching.
On the day of the incident, just an hour before, Johnson posted this on Facebook:
This post, not unlike most of Johnson’s shares garnered lots of views. And some who follow Johnson and apparently know him were confused and hurt.
“…that makes me really sad. I thought he was different,” Melani Phillips wrote.
Then, also on Facebook, and less than an hour after the incident, Johnson posted this:
A supporter posted this comment:
“You need to explain yesterday….I ain’t saying your wrong… but it looks bad.”
Johnson also has a very popular Instagram account with more than 80,000 followers, where he shares much of the same content but adds as his profile quote: “I grew up hating the police… now I’m a Police Officer. I grew up in the same streets I now protect…”
Johnson appears to be a beloved community police officer which some say makes what is seen on the video that much harder to understand.
“I just don’t get it,” a user wrote on his IG.
5. Johnson Is Very Socially Connected With a Twitter, Snapchat, & YouTube; as Co-Host of the #ItsNeeded Podcast, He Talked About ‘Use of Force’
Johnson is a co-host of the #ITSNEEDED Podcast described as a way to “bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community.”
The host is founder of Breaking Barriers United, SoCal cop Ryan Tillman, another former police officer Juan Wilson, and Johnson.
“On this episode they talk about use of force within police work, when it is permitted, and they share funny stories they have personally experienced in Law Enforcement …”
On his Twitter account, Johnson described himself as “just a normal dude that happens to be a cop.”