Paterson, NJ — The Patterson Police Department in New Jersey is making headlines this week after their fourth officer in only two months has been arrested by federal agents. Officer Roger Then, 29, was arrested on Wednesday for participating in the beating of a mentally ill man in a wheelchair — and making a video to remember it.
The person in the wheelchair was a patient at a hospital. He had committed no crime and had called authorities for help because he felt suicidal. However, once he got to the hospital, help was the last thing he received. Instead, he received a horrific beating at the hands of the two responding officers.
Officer Then and his partner, known only as Police Officer 1 in the complaint, proceeded to beat their wheelchair-bound victim so horrifically that he required surgery to save his eyeball.
The incident was captured on hospital surveillance footage as well as Then's own cellphone. According to prosecutors, Then is accused of making a video of the beating with his phone and hiding it from the report and the department.
According to the complaint:
On March 5, 2018, Then and another Paterson police officer – identified in the complaint as “Police Officer 1” – responded to a call from an attempted suicide victim. Then and Police Officer 1 met the victim at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson.
In the hospital surveillance footage, the victim, while in a wheelchair, appears to throw an object down the hall. Afterwards, Police Officer 1 pushes the wheelchair and punches the victim in the face. As the victim falls, Then grabs him by the back of the neck and pushes him to the ground.
In the second video, which was allegedly taken by Then using his cellphone, the victim is on his back in a hospital bed. After the victim verbally insults Police Officer 1, Police Officer 1 puts on a pair of hospital gloves and violently strikes the victim twice across the face. Police Officer 1 then stands over the victim and says, “I ain’t fucking playing with you.”
Then and Police Officer 1 filed a police report in connection with the events of March 5, 2018. The police report did not mention that Police Officer 1 punched the victim or that Then grabbed the victim by the neck and pushed him towards the ground, as captured in the first video. The police report also did not mention that Police Officer 1 violently struck the victim in a hospital room, as depicted in the second video.
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As a result of these assaults, the victim suffered multiple injuries to his face, including the eye injury that required surgery.
After Then's arrest, the department issued a statement noting that most of their cops are good and that this officer's behavior was an isolated incident. However, the four arrests in two months indicate otherwise.
“This is part of the Paterson police department’s ongoing investigation being conducted in partnership with the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI,” said Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale. “The Paterson police department will never accept this kind of behavior, but I want to make it clear that these allegations are not an indication of the other 418 men and women in the Paterson police department who act under the color of the law every day.”
As for the other officers who were arrested, they face charges of everything from extortion and conspiracy to illegal traffic stops and drug running.
As TFTP reported last month, one of those officers was Ruben McAusland, 26, who reportedly sold $12,000 in drugs to an undercover buyer who was working with the FBI, US Attorney Craig Carpenito said in a statement. McAusland is accused of selling at least 35 grams of marijuana, 48 grams of heroin, 31 grams of cocaine and 31 grams of crack between October 2017 and April 2018.
Although the Paterson police chief would like us to think otherwise, it appears that they have more than just a couple of bad apples. Also, the arrests will likely go up to five once the cop, identified as Police Officer 1, is arrested for his role in torturing a mentally ill man in a wheelchair.