A controversial cell phone video shows a man handing out campaign literature for West New York Mayor Felix Roque before suddenly being dragged to the ground and handcuffed by three officers.
(Click on video and watch in full screen for best quality).
The two-minute and 37 second video posted on the “Forward with Roque” page shows what appears to be a significant portion of the incident.
“We’d like to give you a summons for a noise complaint,” an unidentified female officer says when speaking to Dante Joa, a doctor whose office is located at 5300 Bergenline Ave, who was playing Spanish music while handing out pro-Roque flyers.
“You can’t give me a summons, I’m not making an infraction,” he responded.
“Right now, it’s obstruction,” she answered.
“I’m not obstructing anything, okay? This is my property,” he says, pointing to the floor of his office.
The conversation continues to escalate, with the initial officer and two other cops walking Doa back into the office.
He then begins screaming as they appear to be hand fighting, with the two other officers then joining in to help wrestle him to the ground as they implore him to “stop resisting.”
The physical aspect of the incident lasted for about a minute and ends with Doa flat on his stomach before finally being handcuffed.
In a statement, Roque blames his chief opponent in the May 14th municipal elections, Public Safety Commissioner Gabriel Rodriguez, for the situation escalating the way it did.
“Today Dante Joa was arrested by police while exercising his constitutional right of free speech. This is just another example how Commissioner Rodriguez is using the police and other municipal workers to intimidate and harass our supporters,” he said.
“As a Cuban American these tactics are particularly disturbing to me and are the same tactics that were used by Fidel Castro and Nicholas Maduro. Clearly this was done at the direction of Commissioner Rodriguez who is in charge of the police department.”
Police Director Robert Antolos spoke to HCV in detail about the incident and seemed to dispute that it was the result of politics, stating that three officers were sent to Joa’s office after someone made a noise complaint to the department.
He refused to turn the music down and when asked for his ID so he could be summonsed, he also refused, the director said.
“At that point the officers deemed him to be uncooperative and proceeded to place him under arrest, and subsequently the man made physical contact with one of the officers which led the other officers to place the man in a restraint hold and use handcuffs to subdue him,” Antolos stated.
“After the alleged actor’s identification was confirmed, it was revealed that he had an active arrest warrant out of West New York. This incident is still under investigation and it will be reviewed by our Internal Affairs bureau to ensure that the officers behaved appropriately, however from the video footage released it is my personal opinion that the officers used the appropriate level of force necessary to affect the arrest and to keep themselves and their fellow officers safe.”
Joa was ultimately charged with resisting arrest and obstruction of administration of law, in addition to the active arrest warrant, Antolos said.
The video posted on Roque’s campaign page has 7,321 views, 202 shares and 146 comments as of 10 a.m. this morning, with most people being highly critical of the police involved.
A video posted on Joa’s Facebook page shortly before the incident occurred shows him enthusiastically interacting with people in front of his office with Ana Luna, one of Roque’s running mates, and others as they hand out campaign literature.
Seconds before the video ends, a police car pulls up in front of his office with their sirens on and the officers begin getting out the car, prompting him to say something along the lines of “The police are here, the party’s going to start now” in Spanish.
The person who called in the noise complaint spoke to us under the condition of anonymity and said that the police did everything they could to deescalate the situation but Joa continued to be “belligerent.”
The individual also said things were even more intense after the cameras stopped rolling, indicating a police officer had to escort her away from the scene, which had turned into a “melee.”
“It’s really upsetting and hurtful that the mayor of this town would support putting bystanders and individuals in harms way,” the person added, further stating they were not supporting any campaign in the May 14th municipal elections.
Regarding of whose perspective is accurate, this situation is far from over, as Roque is holding a press conference at 2 p.m. to address the situation at length.