Three New Jersey police officers have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into a cellphone video depicting at least one of the officers repeatedly punching an unarmed teenager in the face. Although the officers accused the teen of resisting arrest, the bystander recording the incident noted that the teen was unable to roll onto his stomach as commanded with three cops pinning him down on his back.
At 2:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, Dover police officers confronted 19-year-old Cyprian Luke and arrested him for failing to appear in court on an unrelated matter. Luke’s friend Marcus Robinson reportedly witnessed the arrest and began recording the incident on his cellphone.
“First thing I see is they sprayed him with mace,” Robinson told reporters. “They were all over him, he couldn’t move his arms, but then they were saying ‘stop resisting’ at the same time. And then they started punching him. I thought bro was going to die.”
In the video, a Dover police sergeant repeatedly punches Luke in the face while ordering him to “stop resisting.”
Luke attempts to defend himself by covering his face with his left hand as two other officers restrain him. With his hand gripping Luke’s throat, the sergeant punches him in the face again.
When Robinson asks one of the officers for his badge number, the cop tries to knock the phone out of his hand while telling Robinson, “Go fuck yourself.”
As the officers drag Luke to their patrol cars with the teen’s pants down to his knees and missing a shoe, Robinson continues to demand their names and badge numbers. The officers repeatedly threaten to arrest Robinson before the video ends.
Police charged Luke with assault and criminal mischief. He appeared in court on Monday to plead not guilty.
“Mr. Luke resisted police efforts to take him into custody,” Dover Mayor James Dodd stated during a press conference on Monday. “There is no reason for me to believe at this time that race played any role. I understand that we live in an age of social media where there is a tendency to rush to judgment. If the officers behaved inappropriately, swift action will be taken.”
“My son could’ve died, he was blue in one video where he’s being choked and maced for no reason,” Luke’s mother Mary Yurley told NBC New York. “My son’s not resisting, he was not being able to comply with what the officer was telling him to do.”
According to Robinson, Luke and his friends were not drunk at the time and were in town to buy tattoos. Dover police officials have not stated what escalated the police officers to violently assault an unarmed and restrained teen.
The police sergeant and two officers who arrested Luke have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into the incident. Currently, none of the officers faces assault charges.