NAACP calls for officers in viral NJ mall fight video to be disciplined

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Saturday, February 19, 2022
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Gov. Phil Murphy and the NAACP are weighing on the actions of two Bridgewater police officers who sparked controversy while breaking up a mall fight. Michelle Charlesworth has the story.

BRIDGEWATER, New Jersey (WABC) -- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and the NAACP are weighing on the actions of two Bridgewater police officers who sparked controversy while breaking up a fight between two teenagers -- one Black and one white -- at a mall.

Video of the incident shows both teens involved in the fight inside the Bridgewater Commons Mall, but when the officers arrive, the Black teen is pinned on the ground with a knee in his back and handcuffed, while the white teen sits on a couch.

Murphy called the handling of the incident disappointing.

"I'm deeply disturbed by what appears to be racially disparate treatment in the video," he said. "We have to let the investigation play out. The appearance of what is racially disparate treatment is deeply, deeply disturbing, and it's just another reminder that the progress we've made on the relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve...shows that our work is not done and we need to continue that."

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Meanwhile, the NAACP is demanding the officers be removed from the force pending the investigation.

"The @naacp NJ State Conference calls for these @bridgewaterpd officers to be immediately removed from the police force pending an investigation," the organization said in a tweet. "The time for the #nj Governor and Attorney General to put a stop to this type of behavior by the police is NOW."

The Black 8th grader, named Z'Kye Husain, and his mother spoke to Eyewitness News.

"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," Husain said. "Then the female officer came over and put her knee on my upper back too and started helping him put cuffs on me, while (the white high schooler) was just sitting down on the couch watching the whole thing."

The person recording the video can be heard saying, "It's cause he's Black."

Kye's mom, 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," she said. "I'm baby-stepping my way into watching it, but it's just crazy."

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," he said. "And since he's older, he was on top of me and he's bigger. I was just confused and mad about it."

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The Bridgewater Township Police Department said it has called for an Internal Affairs investigation, and Mayor Matthew Moench promised an impartial, objective and thorough investigation.

Bridgewater Commons' Senior General Manger Troy Fischer said both teens have been banned from the property for three years.

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."

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