Delaware County, NJ — On April 3, Stephen Dolceamore, 29, of Delaware County, was in need of medical attention. He was reportedly in the midst of a mental health crisis when police officers responded to a call about him. Instead of "help" however, Dolceamore received a savage beating and would die as a result. Dolceamore would spend his last moments alive, face down in a dirt strip in a hotel parking lot, begging for help as cops squeezed the life from his body.
Outside of the release of the body camera footage — six months after the incident — police have released very few details about the case, including all the video which shows what happened before Dolceamore was on the ground and the results of the autopsy.
As the video shows, Dolceamore was distressed and not responding to the officers' order. He was on his hands and knees as officers told him multiple times to get on the ground and put his hands behind his back.
"Give us your hands and stop," an officer says. "Give us your hands, big guy."
"Spray him," an officer says when Dolceamore won't give them his hands. Police then shoot him in the face with the chemical agent before unleashing a fury of punches.
They're "trying to crush my skull," Dolceamore says as the cops pile on top of him. A few seconds later, police get Dolceamore into handcuffs but continued to shove his face in the dirt and kneel and push down on his back.
"I can't breathe," he says. "I'm gonna die, help."
These would be Dolceamore's last words as he would then fall unconscious and stop breathing.
Over the next few minutes, officers tell him to "wake up," and say that "he's turning purple." Eventually the police begin chest compressions, administer naloxone and radio for medical assistance multiple times.
None of the life-saving measures helped and police chocked it up to an overdose. Apparently having multiple cops on top of you, hitting you and kneeling on you, has no effect on your health.
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Upon releasing the video, Police Director Sheilah Coley pledged that the department would "continue to expand its efforts to be more accountable to the community we serve."
But that has yet to happen and it's being written off to an "uptick in crime." No officers have been disciplined either.
"Today, more Trenton Police Officers are equipped with body cameras than ever before," Coley said. "In addition, we’re starting to train officers in techniques for restraining suspects that don’t require the use of physical force. TPD officers are contending with a simultaneous uptick in crime and a greater demand for accountability. I’m confident that my officers can – and will – meet that challenge. Trenton residents deserve nothing less."
What's more, the department has been tight-lipped on all the details, including the footage of officers interacting with Dolceamore before he's on the ground.
As the Trentonian reports, bystander videos previously obtained by The Trentonian showed officers chasing, macing, pummeling, and using their knees to straddle over the emotionally disturbed man's legs and chest while his hands appeared restrained behind his back.
Remember, Dolceamore had harmed no one and police were reportedly called out simply due to the fact that he was acting erratically. Acting erratically should not come with a death sentence.
The Trentonian has since filed a public records lawsuit seeking the videos, 911 call recordings, and other documents.
None of the officers involved have been named and the AG says its office is still investigating. They will send it to a grand jury once the investigation is complete. However, all sitting grand juries have been suspended due to COVID-19.
Below is a video showing the problem of police training, especially when handling the mentally ill. Orderlies and nurses in mental health facilities deal with dozens of cases like this every day and they manage to do so without killing their patients. But, when your only tool is the escalation of force — coupled with qualified immunity when using it — we should expect nothing less from America's police force.