PHILADELPHIA -- Three years ago, Roberto Acevedo Jr. received an out-of-court settlement from a civil suit against the Police Department in which he alleged that he had been beaten by cops, according to a source and court records.
As recently as two years ago, Acevedo, under his stage name "Young Reek," starred shirtless in a rap video that shows him flashing $100 bills and his co-stars displaying what look like drugs.
One year ago, Acevedo joined the Philadelphia Police Department and now patrols the streets he once rapped about for the department he once sued, according to sources, court documents and city payroll records.
Police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers said that the Internal Affairs unit is investigating Acevedo and his rap videos and that the commissioner is aware of them. He said that word had spread through the department about the videos. An official with the Fraternal Order of Police said Acevedo has given up his rap career.
Among Acevedo's gems in one video posted on YouTube -- for a song called "Top Gunnaz" -- are these lyrics that seem to condone shooting people:
"A top gunner, flyer than Tom Cruise, I pop dudes,
Rockin' 'em, knockin' 'em out they shoes.
They baggin' 'em givin' 'em six like Action News.
I'm aimin' for the top, it's so easy I can't lose."
It's unclear when the 22-year-old Acevedo, who is well-regarded by neighbors and an acquaintance who spoke with a reporter, came on the Philly music scene as "Young Reek." In 2009 he was named best Latin artist at the Philly Hip Hop Awards, according to the awards website.
The music video for "Top Gunnaz" was posted on YouTube in 2009 and had been viewed more than 12,000 times as of last week. The most-watched version of the video was pulled down after The Philadelphia Daily News started asking questions about it, but other versions remain online.
"Young Reek" is one of three featured rap artists in the song. Another one of the rappers in the video holds up to the camera a prescription pill bottle and what appears to be a bag of marijuana.
A shirtless "Young Reek" waves around $100 bills and grabs his crotch repeatedly. At one point during his solo, he brings his fingers to his mouth, mimicking smoking.
Acevedo has since stopped pursuing a rap career, said FOP Treasurer John Ruane, who called the Daily News after a reporter tried to contact Acevedo in person.
"He's not an active (rapper)," Ruane said. However, Ruane seemed surprised to learn of Acevedo's previous lawsuit against the department and referred further requests to John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5.
When a reporter visited Acevedo's house for comment, he didn't answer the door, though neighbors said he was home. A request for comment left at his house was returned by his mother, who said her son wouldn't comment until he has hired an attorney.
According to city payroll records, Acevedo joined the force one year ago at a salary of $44,097. Police said he is assigned to the 25th District, which shares a headquarters with the 24th District. The incident that sparked Acevedo's 2007 lawsuit occurred in the 24th.
Acevedo was one of three plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which claimed that they were beaten by police on Nov. 11, 2005 in Juniata Park. The lawsuit claims that "without cause or justification" police "repeatedly struck, punched, kicked and hit" Acevedo with a nightstick on his head, face, body and limbs, court documents said.
One of the other plaintiffs, a woman who was nine months pregnant at the time, claimed that police hit her in the stomach with a nightstick. The only possible cause that the suit gives for the alleged attack is that the plaintiffs criticized the "mistreatment of others by the defendant officers and other officers of the Philadelphia Police Department."
The suit was settled out of court in January 2008 for $72,500, according to the city Solicitor's Office. The office did not know what each plaintiff received, and their lawyer on the case declined to comment.
A person close to the case confirmed that the Acevedo named as a plaintiff in that suit is now a Philly police officer and is the musician known as "Young Reek."
Evers said "past litigation has no bearing on someone being hired. That would be discrimination." All applicants are required to disclose any previous civil suits to which they were a party in a personnel data questionnaire during the hiring process, he said.
Former Police Commissioner John Timoney, who also headed the Miami Police Department, said that this probably wasn't the first time that someone has sued the department then joined it.
"You may have a conflict of conscience but not a conflict of interest here," he said. "I don't know how it didn't come up in background check, but even if it did, the issues that disqualify you are drug testing and prior contact with the justice system. Being litigious won't disqualify you."
McNesby said he did see a conflict. Although he didn't know the details of Acevedo's lawsuit or whether it had merit, he said he "highly hoped" that nobody would become a police officer "after settling a frivolous lawsuit against police officers on the streets."
"If you're going to sue us and then join us, it looks like there might be a bit of a rift there," he said. "You don't want to sue us and then join because you're going to be standing next to the cop that you sued, and that'd be disturbing."
Neighbors, who confirmed that Acevedo's father, Roberto Acevedo Sr., is a retired city police officer, spoke well of Acevedo Jr. One neighbor who asked not to be identified said he is a "nice guy" with a good reputation and is really respectful to her and her kids.
A former acquaintance of Acevedo's who also asked not to be identified said he didn't hold it against him for joining the Police Department.
"Maybe, after what happened to him, he's just trying to make the department better," the man said.
Staff writer Bob Warner contributed to this report
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