Englewood, NJ – As a bystander recorded a cell phone video of police choking and arresting a man throwing money out of his pockets, officers suddenly attacked an onlooker before shooting him with a Taser. Although the police claim that the onlooker threw a punch at the officer, the video does not corroborate the official narrative.
In a video recorded on Sunday night, several Englewood Police officers can be seen restraining Varian Hooks against a parked car. While ordering Hooks to stop resisting, one of the cops grips his hand around Hooks’ throat and begins choking him as Hooks tosses his money across the car’s back windshield toward the bystander recording his arrest. As the bystander begins picking up the cash, another officer quickly snatches the bills out of his hand.
Although Hooks did not fight back, the video does show officers choking and punching him in the face while Hooks refused to allow the cops to handcuff him. As the police take Hooks to the ground, a diminutive officer can be heard taunting an off-camera onlooker and repeatedly asking, “What’s up? What’re you going do to? Who you sizing up?”
As the smaller cop walks away, another one steps in incessantly provoking, “Beat me up! Beat me up!”
Several seconds later, off-camera onlooker Jason Eaves can be heard asking, “Why you touching my hand?”
Suddenly, the police grab Eaves from the crowd and throw him onto the street. While a cop keeps monotonously repeating that he does not know what happened and orders the crowd not to move, a witness can be heard telling the willfully ignorant officer, “He just pulled the cigarette off his hand and then smacked him! For what?”
Momentarily rising to his feet, Eaves is shot with a police Taser after officers had already taken him to the ground again. With Eaves immobilized by the Taser, another officer grabs his head and slams him against the pavement.
On Tuesday afternoon, Englewood Police Chief Lawrence Suffern issued a statement claiming that Hooks had thrown both cash and marijuana out of his pockets even though the video only shows him throwing money at the bystander. Suffern also accused Eaves of throwing a punch at an officer’s head, which led to the use of a Taser. But once again, the video does not show Eaves throwing any punches.
According to Suffern, Hooks was charged with disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, resisting arrest, and tampering with evidence. Eaves has been charged with resisting arrest, obstruction, and aggravated assault on a police officer, despite the fact that the accusatory punch was not recorded on video and the officer was clearly requesting to be struck.
Under Englewood Police’s previous policy, Tasers could only be used against suspects likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, either to themselves or others. But new guidelines allow the cops to use Tasers on anyone actively resisting arrest or posing a “substantial” risk of causing bodily injury.