A video showing police officers breaking up a fight between a Black teenager and a White teenager at a New Jersey mall has prompted outrage over the police response.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Wednesday that the “appearance of what is racially disparate treatment is deeply, deeply disturbing.”
One video of the incident reviewed by CNN shows the boys arguing before the White teenager points his finger at the Black teenager’s face, and the Black teenager pushes the White teenager’s hand back. The White teenager pushes the Black teenager, who begins to throw punches at the other boy. The White teenager punches back.
The Black teenager ends up on the ground. Two Bridgewater Township police officers arrive and separate the two boys.
The Black teenager begins to get up and is pinned to the ground by one officer and rolled on to his stomach, with his hands behind his back. The other officer pushes the White teenager onto a nearby couch and then assists in handcuffing the Black teenager. Eventually, officers stand the handcuffed Black teenager up.
It is unclear how the incident escalated between the boys or what happened after the Black teenager was handcuffed.
CNN has not been able to speak to either teenagers or their parents.
The Black teenager, who identified himself by his first name, Kye, spoke to CNN affiliate WABC, saying his friend was arguing with the White teenager and he “just kind of jumped in” before it turned into a physical fight. He said the officers on scene “basically tackled (him) to the ground” and one officer put his knee on his back.
“The male officer put his knee in my back, then he started putting me in cuffs and then the female officer came over and put her knee on my upper back too, and started helping putting cuffs on me … while (the White teenager) was just sitting down on the couch watching the whole thing,” Kye said.
The Bridgewater Township Police Department said in a Facebook post that they know video of the incident has upset members of the community. They have asked the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the incident.
“We recognize that this video has made members of our community upset and are calling for an internal affairs investigation,” the department wrote.
“The officers were able to respond quickly to this incident and stop it from escalating because of a tip we received from the community. We have requested that the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office assist us in this matter and are requesting patience as we strictly adhere to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Internal Affairs Directive.
“We appreciate the videos that we have already received from community members and ask that anyone who has a video of this incident please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The men and women of the Bridgewater Township Police Department are thankful for our community partners and look forward to continuing to build our positive relationships.”
Gov. Murphy on Wednesday also said that the incident is “just another reminder that the progress we made on the relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve … our work is not done, and we need to continue that.”
The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed to CNN Wednesday that their Internal Affairs Unit is investigating both the fight and the police response. The Mayor of Bridgewater, Matthew Moench, said in a letter to residents that it is “not appropriate for [him] or any other Township official to comment any further” while the investigation is ongoing, but said he is “completely confident that the Prosecutor’s review will be impartial, objective and thorough.”
The New Jersey Attorney General’s office also said in statement Wednesday that they are working closely with the prosecutor’s office on the investigation. “The SPCO will follow the Attorney General’s Office’s strict guidelines and procedures for investigating possible misconduct, and to ensure transparency and accountability,” a spokesperson said.
Kye’s mother told CNN affiliate WCBS that she wants the officers involved to become “unemployable.”
“Maybe they could have broken up the fight and maybe set them aside and called their parents. No cuffs, no aggression. Dealt with them like they were teenagers,” the mother said. “I’m not happy about it, and I do want those two cops to become unemployable. That’s what I would like.”