Elizabeth, NJ — Jerome Wright, 57, was accused of a minor traffic violation and subsequently stopped by an unmarked police car. Seconds later, he would find himself doused with pepper spray, thrown to the ground, kicked in the head, and savagely beaten with a flashlight. The attack was so excessive and brutal that the New Jersey taxpayers were forced to shell out $250,000 to pay for it.
A key component of the lawsuit was a video taken by a nearby resident. Had it not been for the video, the court would've believed the police officers when they said Wright charged them and was a threat. The video also showed police kicking, stomping, and smashing Wright's head in with a flashlight—a fact conveniently left out of the official report.
According to the lawsuit, which was settled in October, police used excessive force – including chemical spray, kicks, punches – then "fabricated" a police report in an effort to "cover up" their actions.
As app.com reports, the officers would admit in court that they left out these facts in their reports.
Elizabeth Police Officer Rui Xavier admitted in court testimony he left facts out of his arrest report: Jerome Wright's hands were up in the air, Xavier struck Wright with a flashlight and kicked him.
Officer Xavier said he "oversaw" facts left out of his report when he was questioned in court and shown a bystander's video. A version of the video edited to make the police interaction clearer is at the top of this story, an unedited version is below.
According to the lawsuit, Wright was accused of running a red light and an unmarked police cruiser attempted to pull him over. Because the car was unmarked, Wright did not immediately come to a stop.
Once, Wright realized that it was police in the unmarked vehicle, he immediately pulled over, according to the lawsuit.
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According to the lawsuit, the officers then drew their weapons and demanded Wright exit the vehicle. But police claim Wright exited his vehicle and then charged officers, forcing them to deploy pepper spray.
Exactly what happened prior to Wright getting savagely beaten remains a mystery as the witnesses video did not start until Wright has already exited the vehicle. However, as the video shows, the 57-year-old man posed no threat and had his hands in the air, appearing to comply with everything the officers said—another fact conveniently omitted from the police report.
Wright's lawsuit claims he asked why he was being arrested, then "without warning, justification or cause," Figueiredo sprayed him. Wright "raised his hands in submission," a gesture visible on the witness' video. Then Wright was sprayed again by both officers, according to app.
However, Xavier's report stated he joined in spraying Wright after Figueiredo's burst "appeared to have no effect on (Wright)." The second spray "appeared to have angered (Wright) as he charged towards Officer Figueiredo. Officer Figueiredo was able to take Wright to the ground."
In the video, Wright does not appear to be angry. He merely appears shocked and disoriented—something that most people would feel if one minute they are driving down the road and the next they are getting hit in the face with a chemical agent.
As Wright struggled to see, he appears to stumble at which point the officers kick his legs out from under him. Wright is slammed to the ground as the officers begin their attack.
Showing just how unnecessary and excessive the use of force by the officers was, Wright took his case to trial and was found not guilty.
As for the officers who beat an innocent man and then lied about it in their reports, neither of them have received so much as a slap on the wrist and the department has refused to admit any wrongdoing.