Video of police breaking up New Jersey mall fight sparks outrage, investigation

BRIDGEWATER, New Jersey (WABC) -- The police response to a fight at a New Jersey mall that went viral on social media is sparking outrage and has prompted an internal affairs investigation.

The video shows a crowd of students inside the Bridgewater Commons Mall over the weekend, with two of them -- a Black 8th-grader and a white high schooler -- in each other's faces and arguing.

They begin fighting, throwing punches and falling onto a couch and then the floor.

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Two Bridgewater police officers break up the fight, separating the teens and pushing the white teen onto a couch.

The Black teen, however, is pinned to the ground with an officer's knee on his back and handcuffed.

The second officer also helps hold him down.

"They basically tackled me to the ground and then the male officer put his knee in my back and then he started putting me in cuffs then the female officer came over and put her knee on my upper back too and started helping him put cuffs on me while he was just sitting down on the couch watching the whole thing," the 8th-grader, named Z'Kye Husain, said.

The person recording the video can be heard saying, "It's cause he's Black," as both officers focus on him while the white teen sits on the couch.

Husain's mother, Ebone, said she is grateful her son is OK and wants the video seen by as many people as possible.

"I had to watch it on mute, I still haven't watched it and listened to the sound, I'm baby-stepping my way into watching it, but it's just crazy," Ebone said.

Husain said the fight began because the high schooler was picking on a friend who is a 7th-grader.

"My friend was arguing with the older kid and so I kind of just jumped into a fight, and since he's older, he was on top of me and he's bigger," Husain said. "I was just confused and mad about it."

Ebone said she wants the officers to become unemployable after the incident with her son.

"The Bridgewater Twp Police Department is aware of a video on social media of our officers stopping a fight in progress at the Bridgewater Commons Mall," the department said in a statement. "We recognize that this video has made members of our community upset and are calling for an internal affairs investigation. 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 tips@bridgewaterpd.com. 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."

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Mayor Matthew Moench addressed the situation in a letter to residents Tuesday, promising an impartial, objective and thorough investigation.

"The Township Administration is aware of a video circulating on social media involving some young people and officers of the Bridgewater Police Department," he wrote. "I want to thank the public for its patience in refraining from jumping to conclusions while an investigation is pending. I also want to thank the brave men and women of the Bridgewater Police Department for their continued service, and for keeping our public safe in today's challenging environment."

Video of the incident does appear to show the white teen put his finger in the Black teen's face and shove him before the Black teen seemingly throws the first punch.

Police have declined to comment on the specifics of the fight itself.

"We are aware of the incident, and both of the young individuals involved were immediately banned from our property for the next three years," Bridgewater Commons' Senior General Manger Troy Fischer said. "As this is a police matter and currently under investigation, please direct further inquiries to the Bridgewater Township Police Department."

The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office issued the following statement regarding the investigation:

"The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office has been notified of an incident at the Bridgewater Commons Mall involving a physical altercation between two juvenile males and response from Bridgewater Township Police Officers. The matter has been referred to the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office Internal Affairs Unit who is investigating the incident in accordance with New Jersey Attorney General Guidelines and Directives. The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office requests that anyone who was present at the time of the altercation and may have recorded any portion of the event to contact the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office Internal Affairs Unit at (908) 575-3300 or via the STOPit app. The STOPit app allows citizens to provide anonymous reports including videos and photos. STOPit can be downloaded to your smart phone for free at the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, access code: SOMERSETNJ. All anonymous STOPit reports will be kept confidential. No further comment can be released at this time as the matter is under investigation."

Meanwhile, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy says while an investigation is still gathering facts about the incident, he's "deeply disturbed by what appears to be racially disparate treatment in this video."

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