Video shows NJ cops getting attacked while making arrest

The department, which does not usually release bodycam video during an investigation, did so due to “erroneous reports” about the attack


By Chris Sheldon
nj.com

NEWARK, N.J. — Newark Police Friday evening released clips from body-worn camera footage of an incident earlier this week where three officers attempting to make an arrest were attacked and injured by a group of people.

The department said that it does not usually release camera footage during an investigation but wanted to do so due to “numerous rumors and erroneous reports” about the attack.

“Typically, when a criminal investigation is underway, we don’t release the footage per policy,” Newark Public Safety Director Brian A. O’Hara said in a statement. “Regardless, when police wear body-worn cameras, the public expects that we have nothing to hide. Therefore, I believe it is in the best interest of the public to release this video—especially in light of all the false information circulating about this incident.”

Two Newark Police officers and a detective from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office were patrolling the area of Fabyan Place and Cypress Street around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in response to recent gun violence in that area, when they approached a group of men on the street and attempted to stop one man who was suspected of gun possession, O’Hara has said.

The video, which did not consist of all of the footage taken at the scene, can be seen here. It starts with officers confronting a group of men near an open van when several men get into a scuffle with the officers.

The officer from where the bodycam footage was taken continues to order the men to stop before one of the men grabs his camera and throws it to the ground.

The footage then cuts to another officer attempting to put handcuffs on a man who shouts “record me too” before that officer’s camera also is knocked to the ground.

The video then shows a larger group of officers attempting to put handcuffs on a man who does not cooperate so the officers take him to the ground to cuff him before picking him up and putting him in the back of a cop car.

O’Hara said a longer version of the video was still being processed, but was not currently available.

He has said two brothers of the suspect came to the scene and “physically interfered” with the arrest and the officers called for backup and two officers were injured while attempting to make the arrest, officials said. The officers were taken to University Hospital with minor injuries and were later released, authorities said. No other injuries were reported.

Branden K. Rodwell, 31, of Newark, and Justin Rodwell, 30, of Irvington, were arrested at the scene, O’Hara said. Jaykil A. Rodwell, 28, and Jasper D. Spivey, 24, both of Newark, were arrested Wednesday after surrendering to police following issuances of arrest warrants for each on “charges related to this incident,” he said.

Branden and Justin Rodwell each face charges of three counts of aggravated assault against a police officer, obstruction of the administration of the law, and resisting arrest, police said. Jaykil Rodwell and Spivey each face charges of three counts of aggravated assault against a police officer, obstruction of the administration of the law and hindering apprehension or prosecution.

Rodwell was the person police were originally arresting, O’Hara told NJ Advance Media.

The incident is now under investigation by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, confirmed the agency’s spokeswoman, Katherine Carter.

A gun was not recovered at the scene, Carter added.

The release of the video comes after Newark Mayor Ras Baraka on Thursday, pushed back on the police union president’s version of what happened during the arrest. He accused Newark FOP Lodge No. 12 President James Stewart of spinning a “false narrative” about the officers being pummeled to the ground and attacked by a mob.

The mayor said, “two men tried to interfere in the arrest” but added that “while a small group of people gathered, they in no way attacked police.”

O’Hara’s statement Friday evening contradicted what the mayor said the day before as the public safety director commended the officers for how they handled the incident.

“They used extraordinary restraint even while it is clear from the video that the officers were outnumbered and that they were attacked while attempting to make an arrest,” O’Hara said. “We cannot and will not standby and allow police officers, who are sworn to safeguard our streets, to be physically attacked for doing their job.”

“In today’s climate, where similarly minor incidents have resulted in unpredictable outcomes, our officers ensured that not one of the civilians involved was injured, and that is highly commendable,” O’Hara added. “I thank Mayor Baraka, who personally responded to the scene that day, for deploying the City of Newark’s Code Enforcement Officers and members of the Department of Public Works to assess the safety of the area, which has been a hotspot for gun violence over the past few weeks.”

Stewart thanked O’Hara Friday night for releasing the footage so that “an accurate depiction of what occurred” could be viewed by the public.

“Now the citizens can view for themselves what these officers were up against that afternoon, and maybe ask themselves what they would have done had they been in that situation,” Stewart told NJ Advance Media. “The lack of respect toward police and the disregard of the law can not continue and we need all of our leaders emphasizing that. As I stated on Tuesday night, these officers were attacked while they were simply trying to make the community safer, trying to get a gun off the streets of Newark.”

O’Hara said that under the direction of Baraka, two abandoned houses in the area were torn down, 17 summonses for violations of city ordinances and quality of life issues were issued and 17 cars were towed from the block for being either abandoned or unregistered. Excessive garbage and debris was also removed from the area.

The mayor also directed a mobile police precinct to be established on the block and called for an increased police presence “around the clock,” O’Hara said.

©2021 Advance Local Media LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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