Two teens were fighting in a N.J. mall. One of them is Black. Guess which one got arrested?
Two police officers in Bridgewater Township, N.J., are being investigated internally after they arrested a Black teenager and not his lighter-skinned counterpart after they broke up a fight between the two at Bridgewater Commons Mall on Saturday.
Video captured of the incident shows the two male teens face to face intensely exchanging words and then throwing punches.
Less than 20 seconds in, law enforcement jumped into action and stopped the brawl. Officers were in the area thanks to a community tip, according to the Bridgewater Police Department.
An independent law enforcement expert interviewed by Yahoo News noted that the information contained in the tip may have played a role in the officers’ actions, but a legal expert disagreed and criticized what appears to be bias caught on camera.
The footage shows a female officer grab one teen, while a male officer tackles and handcuffs the Black teen. The female officer sits the white-passing teen down on the couch and then turns to help her partner arrest the Black teen, who has been identified as 14-year-old Kye, according to media reports.
The names of the officers have not been released, and both appear to be white.
Speaking to New York City-based WPIX, the other boy involved, 15-year-old Joey, who identified himself as Latino, told the outlet he was confused about why he wasn’t also detained.
“I knew it was wrong, and I knew there was gonna be problems when they did that,” Joey told the outlet. “They didn’t go for me.”
“I didn’t understand why,” he added. “I even offered to get handcuffed as well.” The cellphone video shows him clenching his wrists together at one point.
Other teens at the scene showed confusion, while one person in the background on video is heard saying, “It’s 'cause he’s Black. Racially motivated.”
The Bridgewater Police Department has now called for an internal affairs investigation with assistance from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.
Law enforcement expert Thor Eells, who is not involved with the case, told Yahoo News it’s too early to tell if police procedures were improperly followed. Eells, a retired commander from the Colorado Springs, Colo., Police Department and current executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, said investigators will gather as much information as they can regarding the “totality of information that the officers had.”
“I think one of the telling bits of information that I saw is the statement by the agency that their ability to intervene so quickly was a result of a tip — community tip,” Eells said. “So, I think, what is lost or not captured [in the video]? What was the information that they had prior to their intervening in the actual physical altercation?”
Kye and his mother, Eboné, have also spoken to local media outlets. The teen told NBC New York that the argument started when he decided to stand up to the other boy for picking on his friend.
Once he is on the ground, the video shows both officers kneeling on his back as they put him in handcuffs.
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