Jersey City officials said the police response at “a large street fight” that involved around 100 people yesterday was measured, indicating that the situation escalated after someone tried to grab an officer’s gun.
“We live in an environment where people can post things on social media, where they can doctor and edit videos on social media, but the good thing is that the CCTV cameras and body cameras of the officers show a very, very clear picture of what transpired on Bostwick Avenue yesterday,” Mayor Steven Fulop said at a press briefing earlier this afternoon.
A viral video shows dozens of people gathered in the vicinity of 30 Bostwick Avenue yesterday before the situation escalates into a physical confrontation that involves police officers.
An eyewitness and nearby resident told HCV that the crowd gathered as an informal funeral ceremony.
While their use of force has faced initial scrutiny, Public Safety Director James Shea articulated that a preliminary review of the evidence shows that all proper procedures and protocols were followed.
He also stated that three 911 calls were made in the span of a few minutes: the first indicating there was a crowd of 20 people, the second stating there was a 40-person gathering, and the third asking for a response to a crowd of 100.
“They attempted to disburse the crowd, while attempting to disburse the crowd, one of our officers was attacked by a juvenile male – who grabbed him by the midsection area attempting to take his weapon or appearing to take his weapon – definitely pulling at his duty belt,” Shea noted.
“That young male was pursued by two officers who tried to place him under arrest, before they could, he resisted, and so did two females – who also resisted the arrest.”
According to Shea, Dashawn Muhammed then placed an officer “in a bear hug” from behind, causing two officers to fall to the ground – around the time when Roland Gregory entered the fray.
Gregory is later seen on top of the officer engaged in a physical altercation with Muhammed, Shea said.
The director continued that pepper spray was used, and after that was unsuccessful, an officer used his expendable baton to strike the two men grappling with the officers – following police training to only strike in the arms and legs.
Furthermore, Police Chief Michael Kelly stressed that his officers used great restraint considering the circumstances.
“Any time a police officer is in danger of losing his weapon, lives can be lost,” he began.
“From the video that I’ve seen from social media, from the video body cams, our police officers acted with great restraint and used exactly the force necessary to bring this situation to a close where nobody was hurt – even people that were fighting with the police.”
During the question and answer session with the media, Shea said that he condemned the actions of that group for requiring such a large police response during a pandemic, and echoed the mayor’s earlier sentiment that social media videos of the incident don’t tell the whole story.
“We’re still recovering video and some of the video posted is clearly edited.”
Shea further stated that the first 911 call came in at 5:16 p.m. on Tuesday and that the incident was under control, with arrests being made, in 10 minutes or less.
Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement Executive Director Pam Johnson described the videos circulating online as “disturbing,” noting that body camera footage should be released to provide a complete picture of what occurred.
“The videos I saw were very disturbing in many ways. To see a scene like that in the middle of a pandemic is quite alarming. The community wants answers and I do as well. Body cam footage is necessary and we want to see it,” Johnson explained.
“Once the footage is provided, the community will be prepared to respond appropriately! in the meantime, conversations about deescalation need to be had in the police force and our community. This is something we’ve been asking for. We must remember that aggression will always be met with more aggression.”
At the tail end of the presser, Shea said that the body camera footage will not be a public record until a probe of the case is complete.
The Jersey City Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit will review the incident before getting a look from the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
“We are aware of the incident and have been in communication with the Jersey City Police Department leadership and Internal Affairs Unit,” said HCPO spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill.
“The initial investigation is being handled by the Jersey City Police Department Internal Affairs Unit and as is standard for all use of force incidents will follow the normal course of review. As this is an internal affairs investigation, no further information can be released at this time.”
Additionally, Councilman-at-Large Rolando Lavarro wished everyone involved a speedy recovery hoping that peace will prevail, noting that collaborative efforts across the board will be necessary to get through this public health emergency.
“This destructive virus has everyone on edge, which is a huge understatement. Now more than ever, we need to preach and practice calm, restraint and patience,” he said in a statement.
“Historically, African Americans and police have had strained and difficult relations. While little has changed that relationship, we all need to make every effort to work together. The truth is, if we are going to beat this virus, we’re all in this together.”
As of this writing, five people have been arrested and charged in connection to the incident.
Roland Gregory has been charged with obstruction, while Dashawn Muhammed and Latia Gregory were both charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct, obstruction, resisting arrest, and failure to disperse.
Two juveniles were also arrested, though their pending charges were not immediately available on Wednesday afternoon.
Most of the presser streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below: