Cops use mace on moaning, yelling deaf man on ground in Paterson
PATERSON — Police can be seen in a video using pepper spray on an apparently deaf man, forcing his head down during the process.
Now the mayor and the county prosecutor are looking into whether the police took the proper steps during the arrest, after the video has gone viral.
Police were on Godwin Avenue making a traffic stop that resulted in a drug arrest, law enforcement sources told NorthJersey.com. The website cited law enforcement sources identifying the man arrested as Raaseon Adams, who was not involved in the drug arrest, but was in the area at the time.
The video was taken by a Facebook user who identified himself as Moet Spa, and who gave New Jersey 101.5 permission to post a copy with profanity edited out.
In the video, the street can be seen jammed with cars and a moving truck, with a man — Adams — banging on the trunk of a car before approaching the officers. Adams, who appears in the video unable to speak clearly, approached the officers with one asking "can I help you?" People in the area can be heard telling the officers that Adams is deaf. Several videos on Adams' Facebook page show him communicating strictly through sign language or by typing in the comment section.
A woman can be seen approaching Adams and telling him "you bugging" as she tries to move him away from the police and calm in down, in order to avoid having him arrested. One officer yells at him: "Yo, walk away," as Adams approaches." A minute later, the same officer appears to be laughing as Adams makes groaning noises and yells incoherently.
Eventually, Adams can be seen walking away and toward a police vehicle when three officers sweep into view and attempt to arrest him. It's not clear in the video what he did immediately prior to that moment.
Adams appears worked up and is shouting, and eventually goes down on the sidewalk with several officers around him. Despite pleas from the crowd not to mace him, and telling Adams to relax, an officer can be seen appearing to spray him at least once while Adams is on the ground and seems to be at least partially restrained.
Shortly after, with two officers appear to be trying to pick Adams off the ground, when he and the two officers move sharply back down; it appears Adams' head may bang the sidewalk with the cops' hands on the back of his head. As one officer tries to circle around, another still holding Adams hits him in the back of his head with his elbow or forearm while yelling something — possibly "give me your arm" or "give me your eyes."
At points during the struggle, Adams appears to be pointing to his leg while trying to say something. Several people in the crowd say he has a bad leg.
As the incident continues the crowd also becomes louder and appears to grow. At one point what looks like a glass object is thrown near the officers and can be heard shattering.
Eventually, Adams is handcuffed and led away by police.
One officer can be heard telling the person recording the incident that there's "no need for this," and that the man behind the camera "should have controlled this."
Mayor Andre Sayegh told NorthJersey.com that since learning of the incident and the video he has been in contact with "numerous community leaders" ensuring them that an independent investigation would be launched. He was expected to hold a meeting with community leaders on Monday and did not return a call or email seeking comment from New Jersey 101.5.
Chief Troy Oswald told the website that his officers exercised "great restraint," but said the incident would be investigated.
Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale told New Jersey 101.5 that the matter had been referred to the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mary Catherine Ryan confirmed that the incident had been sent to the prosecutor's office, but said any questions about the status of the officers should be directed to the police department.
NorthJersey.com said law enforcement sources confirmed Adams was charged with resisting arrest. The names of the officers involved have not been released, but the website said all are still on duty as the investigation continues.