42-year-old Raaseon Adams, shown in a viral video being elbowed and punched by a police officer that sparked outrage, appeared intoxicated and attempted to snatch keys from a police officer’s hand, said Passaic County Prosecutor Camila Valdes on Monday afternoon.
“The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office in consultation with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General has determined that the use of physical and mechanical force does not give rise to criminal charges against any of the involved officers based upon the New Jersey Attorney General’s Use of Force Policy and the New Jersey criminal code,” said Valdes in a statement.
Police referred the case to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office for investigation after footage of the Sept. 28 incident on Godwin Avenue between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Carroll Street began circulating on social media.
At about 6 p.m., police officers pulled over a car that led to a drug arrest in the area. While waiting for the vehicle involved to be towed, a crowd formed that appeared agitated by the arrest, said authorities.
Adams, who appeared to police to be intoxicated, holding a cup believed to contain alcohol, approached police officers. He allegedly tried to take keys to the vehicle involved in the drug arrest from one of the officer’s hand.
Police told Adams “several times” to leave the scene, but he refused. Others, identified as acquaintances of Adams’, pleaded with him to comply. Bystanders told officers at the scene Adams suffers from a hearing impediment.
Adams turned to a police officer and flicked a lit cigarette. He was then told he was under arrest. Police officers tried to handcuff him.
Adams is seen in the video flailing his arms and trying to avoid being handcuffed. Police took him down to the ground and tried to handcuff him behind his back. Video shows he put up a struggle with four police officers.
One police officer, whose identity has not been released, gets on top of Adams. He elbows and punches Adams to subdue him.
Adams was pepper sprayed after several failed attempts to place him in handcuffs.
The struggle between Adams and the officers led to the crowd becoming agitated. Someone threw a bottle at the officers. One officer was nearly struck in the head.
Police ultimately handcuffed Adams in front of his body. But, he refused to get in a patrol car for transportation. He threw himself on the ground, according to the prosecutor. He was then taken to the hospital for evaluation and then released to the custody of police.
Adams was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly persons offense, and aggravated assault on a police officer. He was lodged in the Passaic County Jail.
On Oct. 2, Adams pleaded guilty to obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, a disorderly persons offense, before judge Donna Gallucio.
Adams admitted he interfered with police official functions. He started to behave in an agitated fashion while between the officers and the car being towed, he told the court. He was sentenced and ordered to pay fines.
Later that day, more than a dozen people appeared at a City Council meeting. Some denounced police and others called for reform.
Among them were activists Bilal Hakeem and Ernest Rucker. None of the speakers stated Adams had pleaded guilty earlier in the day.
Municipal officials told the Paterson Times after the meeting Adams had pleaded guilty.
“I found out afterwards,” said Hakeem on Monday afternoon when asked why he did not mention the guilty plea. He declined to further comment, but said he will make statements at the City Council meeting tomorrow.
“I didn’t know about it until you informed me,” said Rucker. He was told of the guilty plea the following day. “Majority of poor people will plea guilty to get out of jail. When you don’t have the money to fight it, you will take a plea deal. That’s throughout the county. The court system is broken in that respect.”
Rucker continued to call for reforms on Monday afternoon. He said police need to be better trained to interact with residents, especially residents with disabilities.
Valdes said both her office and police will review the entire police response to the incident and determine if all department polices and guidelines were followed. She said administrative or corrective actions will be taken if needed.
Police chief Troy Oswald and her office will review existing de-escalation training to determine if changes have to be made to training, she said.
Mayor Andre Sayegh thanked residents, who tried to de-escalate the situation as it unfolded. Two women, including an U.S. Air Force veteran, who accused police of disrespecting them, helped to avert a riot.
Sayegh has said his administration will hold forums to hear the community’s grievances.
“Leaders from Operation Ceasefire have organized listening sessions in each ward to ensure that this dialogue continues, at which I and members of my administration will fully participate,” said the mayor.
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