$855 shoplifting arrest blows up on Facebook, so NJ cops release video
UNION TOWNSHIP (Union) — Township police on Thursday released security video of a shoplifting arrest that has been brewing into a possible protest against police conduct.
The Jan. 9 arrest at the Target store in the Vauxhall section of the township may have otherwise gone unnoticed if not for a witness who went on a local Facebook group to write about what she saw.
“I just got home from the Vauxhall Target where a woman of color with two small children was tackled to the ground at the front entrance by two white male cops,” the South Orange resident shared with SOMA Justice, a Facebook group for South Orange and Maplewood residents interested about social justice and race issues. The conversation was picked up by The Village Green and other local news sites.
But video that police allowed New Jersey 101.5 to view on Thursday does not show police tackling the woman.
The footage, which police obtained from the store’s security cameras, shows a plainclothes store security employee race after the woman who pushed her cart of $850 worth of goods out the front door without paying.
Two uniformed officers then escort the woman and the cart back inside. It appears that both officers each grab an arm and the woman bends her knees, dropping to the floor. The officers appear to bend down to pick her up. Unable to arrest her, the officers hold onto the woman on the floor for several minutes until three more officers arrive.
During the struggle, which was captured by two cameras, the two officers appear to try to wrest the woman’s arms behind her back, but the woman appears to resist, keeping her arms locked in front of her.
Watch the video above.
Capt. Scott Breslow said the officers did not use as much force as they would have with a man, but the 240-pound, 5-foot-7 woman proved difficult for the officers to arrest. Police say the 29-year-old woman refused to cooperate and tried to kick the officers.
Iman Barnes, an Orange resident, was charged with resisting arrest and shoplifting. Police also found that she had a warrant for her arrest out of Secaucus, where she had been accused of shoplifting from a Walmart in July. She also had a shoplifting warrant out of Woodbridge.
Kadijah White said Wednesday, before the video had been released, that residents of neighboring Maplewood were considering protesting the police and Target, but “we want to make sure that we have all of the details.”
“Is it a racial issue? Quite possibly, if you believe any research that we’ve seen on the disparate treatment of black and white people who are suspected of different crimes,” she said.
“I think everyone can agree that police officers have a job to do and that they’re trying to do best by their job, but I think that there’s a lot of times where things can be handled differently, in particular when children are involved.”
Police say Barnes was in the store with another adult and two children, although police were not sure what their relation is to Barnes.
Breslow says it’s not unusual for shoplifters to have children tag along, sometimes using them as an excuse to get out of being arrested.
It’s also not usual for police to respond to this particular store, one of seven businesses in the township that regularly hire uniformed police officers for security duty. This particular Target made 97 reports of shoplifting and credit card fraud last year, Breslow said. In all last year, township police recorded 778 reports of thefts — an 11.5 percent increase from the year before, according to State Police records.
The video released by police also shows Barnes grabbing a bottle of baby formula from a shelf, opening it and pouring it into a bottle.
Before she walks out of the store with the cart, video shows Barnes looking around and peering into a hallway before grabbing the cart and walking out alongside other customers.
Police said neither Barnes nor the officers were injured.
New Jersey 101.5 could not find a phone number for Barnes and did not know whether she had an attorney who could speak on her behalf.
Adam Hochron contributed to this report.
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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.