Maplewood teen files lawsuit over alleged police brutality

Anthony Johnson Image
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Teen says he was following orders when he became victim of police brutality
Anthony Johnson has the details from the teen's lawyer.

MAPLEWOOD, New Jersey (WABC) -- A New Jersey teenager has filed a lawsuit after he claims he was following a police officers' orders when he became the victim of brutality.

Recent high school graduate Jason McDougal said he was doing what police told him to when Maplewood officers suddenly slammed him to the ground, sprayed him with mace, and punched and kicked him, all while using racial epithets.

It happened early in the morning on July 5, 2016, after the then 16-year-old and his friends had been out watching fireworks, and the incident was caught on camera.

The video shows the encounter between police and the group on teens, and the community had to go to court to get it released after the teens complained they were surrounded by cops and forced into the neighboring community of Irvington.

"Maplewood police officers herded children," attorney Robert Tarver said. "He was 16 years old at the time. In the dead of night. Away from their homes."

McDougal and his family are filing a federal civil rights claim, since they say their past efforts to get justice have been unsuccessful.

"He was punched in the head no less than 13 times while on the ground and while being restrained by all these officers," Tarver said.

Officials in Maplewood have asked for the police chiefs resignation in light of the case.

"They were corralled and herded under the direct orders of Police Chief Robert Cimino and pushed towards our neighboring community of Irvington simply because that is a black city and our youth are black," community activist Walter Fields said.

Police reports from the night of the incident include charges of disturbing the peace and resisting arrest, but those reports came after the confrontation. McDougal's representatives say there is nothing to suggest the cops had to be called to the scene, because the teens were walking home and not causing trouble.

"Although the police have put out the tale that there was a fight that occurred, that hasn't appeared on any video," Columbia High School teacher Thomas Whittaker said. "Also, police have said that there were groups of children that rushed them. None of that is on any of the multiple DashCams at all."

The Essex County Prosecutor's Office also looked at the case, and after an eight-month investigation, decided not to pursue charges against the officers.