New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and the state’s NAACP chapter are expressing concern about police officers’ response to a fight between two teenagers at a local mall. In video captured of the fight, two officers are seen pinning down and handcuffing a Black teenager while the other teenager sat and watched from a nearby couch, CBS New York reports.
“Although an investigation is still gathering the facts about this incident, I’m deeply disturbed by what appears to be racially disparate treatment in this video,” Murphy tweeted late Tuesday. “We’re committed to increasing trust between law enforcement and the people they serve.”
The video released Saturday show the two teenagers get into what appears to be a heated argument at the Bridgewater Commons Mall before throwing punches at each other. The two then tumble onto a nearby couch. Two officers arrive and step in to stop the fight.
They sit one of the teens on the couch, while other teenager, who is Black, is held to the floor by an officer. Then the second officer joins in and both kneel on the boy’s back as he is handcuffed.
A witnesses can be heard saying “it’s racially motivated” as the officers pick up the handcuffed Black teen from the ground.
The response from police drew widespread criticism in the state. The NAACP of New Jersey released a statement Wednesday saying they were “disappointed to see still another police action irrefutably showing the disparate treatment of African Americans in our police institutions.” The group called for both officers to be removed from the force pending an investigation.
The Bridgewater Police Department said in a statement on Monday that it is aware the community is “upset,” and requested that the Somerset County Prosecutor’s office assist in an investigation into the incident.
CBS New York spoke to the Black teenager, who was identified as a 14-year-old named Kye. The eighth grader said the fight broke out after he stood up for a friend whom he said was getting picked on by the other teenager.
“I was confused, like, why they saw me as a bad person — like, me as an aggressor,” he said of the officers.
Both Kye and his mother told CBS New York that while they’re grateful for the community’s support, they want the officers involved to be fired.
“I’m not happy about it, and I do want those two cops to become unemployable. That’s what I would like,” his mother said.
Kye has been banned from the mall for three years. His mom told CBS New York that they are choosing not to say whether they feel the incident was racially motivated.