A deaf man was pepper-sprayed by Paterson police after he first tried to pull car keys from an officer's hand, threw a lit cigarette at them and furiously fought their attempts to handcuff him, authorities said Monday.
Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said her office, in consultation with state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal's office, determined that excessive force wasn't used.At the same time, Valdes said, she and Paterson Police Chief Troy Oswald were reviewing "the entire police response to the incident to determine if all departmental policies and guidelines were followed and take administrative or corrective action, if appropriate.
"Moreover, [we] will review current de-escalation training to determine if additional or modified training should be undertaken."
Uniformed city officers had just made a drug arrest after stopping a car on Godwin Avenue -- between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Carroll Street -- and were waiting for a tow truck around 6 p.m. Sept 28 when an angry crowd began to gather, Valdes and Oswald said in a joint statement Monday.
Raasean Adams, 42, who is hearing-impaired, approached them, they said.
Adams "appeared to the police to be intoxicated and was holding a cup of what is believed to be alcohol," Valdes and Oswald said.
"Upon approaching the police officers, Adams allegedly attempted to take the keys to the vehicle involved in the narcotics arrest from an officer’s hand," they said. "The police officers advised Mr. Adams several times to leave the scene but he refused.
"Acquaintances of Mr. Adams pleaded with him to comply," the release says. "Bystanders at the scene indicated to the police that Mr. Adams is hearing-impaired.
At one point, Adams "turned toward a police officer and threw a lit cigarette at him," Valdes and Oswald said.
Adams "was then advised that he was under arrest and officers attempted to take control of him," they said.
Adams then began "flailing his arms attempting to avoid being handcuffed," authorities said. "Police officers took [him] to the ground and attempted to handcuff him behind his back."
Valdes and Oswald reviewed witness statements and cellphone videos -- including one shot by a man who himself was sprayed after he refused police directions to back away.
According to their report:
"Adams continually refused, at which point an officer struck [him] with his elbow to gain compliance. The officer reported that after several failed attempts to handcuff Adams, the officer utilized OC spray to [his] face.
"The crowd became agitated and someone from the crowd threw a bottle in the direction of an officer, nearly striking him in the head.
"Ultimately officers were able to handcuff Adams with his hands in front of his body, but when they attempted to transport him he allegedly refused to enter the patrol vehicle and threw himself on the ground.
"The reports indicated that he was transported to the hospital for evaluation and then released to the custody of the Paterson Police Department."
They charged him with aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest.
Adams pleaded guilty last Tuesday to reduced charges of obstruction, Valdes and Oswald said.Adams admitted that he "started to behave in an agitated way while between the police and the motor vehicle, interfering with the officers’ official functions," they added.
The judge fined him, they said.
According to Monday's release:
"The police use of force was referred to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office for review. The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office in consultation with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General has determined that the use of physical and mechanical force does not give rise to criminal charges against any of the involved officers based upon the New Jersey Attorney General’s Use of Force Policy and the New Jersey criminal code."
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Use of Force Policy can be found at: www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/useofforce2001.pdf .
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