NJ man dies after tussle with Highland Park cops during ‘mental crisis’ — VIDEO
HIGHLAND PARK — Video released this week shows a man violently struggling with police hours before his death last year — footage that provides more insight than the short statement prosecutors had released two days after the incident.
Daniel Nagahama, 28, was pronounced dead at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick about three hours after police say they encountered the Edison man lying on South Fifth Avenue on June 2, 2016.
Libertarian open-government activist John Paff sued the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office last year over the release of police reports, which describe Nagahama as belligerent and under the influence. Use-of-force reports filed by police state that officers used a chemical spray and suggest that Nagahama was arrested.
That conflicts with the statement prosecutors released two days after the incident, which said Nagahama had not been arrested but taken to the hospital by rescue workers.
Dashcam video of the incident released this week by New Brunswick Today — a media organization that has been critical of the county Prosecutor’s Office, and that characterized the office's statement as a lie — shows Nagahama arguing with police.
After several minutes, officers restrain Nagahama, who remains calm for a short while before he frees himself. Four officers then wrestle the heavyset man to the ground, spray him with a chemical and handcuff him — details not mentioned in the prosecutor’s initial statement.
In response to renewed interest in the case this week, prosecutors released a new statement explaining that Nagahama was not considered "arrested" because he was never charged with a crime. Prosecutors say police only restrained Nagahama out of concern for safety because he was having a mental health crisis. Prosecutors say he continued to be combative at the hospital.
Authorities have not said why Nagahama died.
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.