Toms River, NJ — A police officer has been suspended without pay and now stands indicted on charges of official misconduct after forcing his K9 to maul 60-year-old Wendy Tucker. After a long battle for its release, the dashcam video of the incident has finally been made public. It is nothing short of horrifying.
On January 29, 2014, Tuckerton police Cpl. Justin Cherry and another officer responded to a residence where Wendy Tucker was reported as an unwelcome guest. After agreeing to leave, Tucker said she would take the bus home due to the fact that her license was suspended. But shortly afterward, Cpl. Cherry observed Tucker driving and attempted to pull over her vehicle.
Asserting that she was distrustful of the Tuckerton police officers, Tucker did not immediately pull over and instead drove to the municipal complex in Barnegat before stopping her car in the parking lot. While in the custody of Barnegat police, Tucker remained sitting in her vehicle when Cherry and other officers dislocated her left arm by roughly pulling Tucker out of the car and throwing her to the ground.
After she stopped the car, two officers approached her vehicle, opened her door and were forcefully removing the entirely compliant woman from the car and ordering her to the ground. However, Cherry and his K9 partner apparently felt the then 58-year-old compliant woman was a threat.
As the two Barnegat police officers were laying Tucker to the ground, Cherry released his K9, Gunner, and proceeded to allow the dog to begin tearing Tucker apart.
The video shows Cherry force his dog to maul the woman for nearly 30 seconds. As the dog is tearing into Tucker’s flesh Cherry is heard screaming at the woman to put her hands behind her back—a near impossible feat while a German Shepard is ripping you apart.
Once the dog is finally pulled from Tucker, the woman appears to be briefly unconscious. Tucker, who was hospitalized after the attack has since filed a lawsuit against the department. She was arrested and pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor offense of eluding police.
In 2015, as TFTP previously reported, Cherry was charged with official misconduct, aggravated assault, false swearing, tampering with public records, and hindering his own apprehension. Instead of simply allowing Barnegat police to take Tucker into custody, Cherry has been accused of using excessive force and covering up his abuse by writing false police reports. Although the dash cam video from Cherry’s patrol car captured the footage of the brutal incident, Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato fought to keep the video suppressed.
For several years, the department refused to release the video to the public, saying it would hurt the chances of Cherry receiving a fair trial if people saw it. However, John Paff, a private citizen from Franklin, who advocates for public access to government records, refused to back down and it was finally released this year.
The 35-year-old police officer, Cherry has been suspended without pay as his attorneys fight in court to get his indictment overturned.
Besides naming Cherry in her recent lawsuit, Tucker also accused Tuckerton Police Chief Michael Caputo and Barnegat Police Chief Arthur Drexler of failing to track complaints of excessive force by their officers or properly train them. She also blames the unidentified officers who witnessed the attack and did nothing to stop Cherry from using excessive force on her.
Cherry has filed a cross-complaint against the same police chiefs for any role they may have played in the damages suffered by Tucker. According to Cherry, he is not responsible for any injuries inflicted on the unarmed woman who was already in police custody when he ordered his dog to attack.