The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office released video clips on July 2 from an incident in May in which Jersey City police officers deployed pepper spray and extendable batons on black individuals to quell a disturbance on Bostwick Avenue.
The investigation is ongoing, but the prosecutor released the footage before the three-day weekend to the media and community members.
The release comes in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 and after local protests were held across the city against police brutality and systemic racism.
At these rallies and protests community activists and organizers called for the release of the Bostwick Avenue footage.
The clips, which range from a few minutes to almost 30 minutes, depict a chaotic scene or as two officers put it, a “fricken sh*t show.”
According to police body camera footage of a woman who was temporarily detained for alleged disorderly conduct, a fight occurred between two family members after burying their 93-year-old grandmother.
The footage offers little clarity on the May 5 incident but depicts officers moving through crowds of people, several of whom are in a verbal argument outside a residence, during which one woman throws her shoe into a crowd.
Officers instruct everyone who does not live there to go home.
One man who appears agitated is instructed to leave as an officer holds his OC spray or pepper spray, and warns him or “in two seconds I’m spraying you.”
Clips taken from social media depict officers using pepper spray and a baton on individuals outside another residence after officers gave chase, also shown on body camera footage.
This part of the incident remains unclear because no body camera captures the moment in its entirety.
Videos do show about 10 officers in a physical altercation with several individuals, attempting to get them on the ground. At least one officer is captured on camera repeatedly striking a man with a baton as onlookers scream.
One individual who appears to have been sprayed as he was placed under arrest, says, “I can’t see … my eyes” before a woman brings out a jug of milk in an attempt to ease the pain.
As officers attempt to move him to a car, he appears to have difficulty getting up and walking. An officer shouts at him to “use his f*cking” legs before the man, wearing a torn white shirt, utters the now haunting words “I can’t breathe” and “I need a hospital.”
As the officer places him in a marked car, he tells the man, “We are trying,” as other officers call for an ambulance.
The sound on the various videos cuts in and out and occasionally emits static.
Several body cameras fell off their officers, and only depict the sky above the scene before they are picked up again.
When asked several follow-up questions regarding the investigation so far, prosecutor’s spokesperson Ray Worrall said, “At this time, we are just releasing the videos to media outlets who have made a written request. We will have no further comment until the investigation is fully concluded.”
The city’s stance
In May, according to the city’s Director of Public Safety James Shea, at 5:16 p.m. on May 5 the police department received a report of a fight involving 20 people. Sixty seconds later it received another call of a fight, now involving 50 people, and 40 seconds after that, it received a call of a fight now involving 100 people.
Six officers responded and attempted to disperse the crowd. “There was a large crowd still involved in boisterous behavior, including potential assaults against each other in the street,” Shea said at the time.
According to the footage, by the end of the incident there were many more officers on the scene, including officers in what appeared to be tactical vests from the police department’s Emergency Services Unit. Some of the officers at the scene were wearing masks, and at least one officer was wearing a bracelet that said “Blue Lives Matter.”
At the time, Shea said one officer was “attacked by a juvenile male and grabbed around the midsection area attempting to take his weapon or appearing to take his weapon but definitely pulling at his duty belt.”
The footage released by the prosecutor’s office does not appear to depict a man reaching for an officer’s weapon. Police officers pursued the juvenile and attempted to place him under arrest, and when they did so, he allegedly resisted and was joined by two women who allegedly also resisted arrest.
Another officer joined them, and while they were effecting the arrest, a man identified as Dashawn Muhammed allegedly came behind the officer and “put him in a bear hug.”
Two officers fell to the ground, and another man, identified as Roland Gregory, approached the officers and got on top of the officer.
The officers deployed “OC Spray” or pepper spray, but it allegedly had no effect, and it was at that point that an officer deployed his extendable baton against the two men who were allegedly wrestling with the police officers, striking them in the arms and legs.
Six people, including three juveniles, were arrested.
According to Shea, two men refused medical treatment, and all were released with a court date.
Four officers also received medical attention.
All of the officers at the incident remain on full duty.
In May, Police Chief Michael Kelly defended the amount of force used by officers.
“Any time a police officer is in danger of losing his weapon, lives can be lost,” Kelly said. ”We don’t allow people to strike at our weapon, attempt to take our weapon from our police officers, or touch our weapon…. From all the video I’ve seen from social media, from the police video body cams, our police officers acted with great restraint and used exactly the force necessary to bring this situation to a close where nobody was hurt, even people that were fighting with the police.”