NJ councilman charged with assaulting homeless man in social media video
☑️ Councilman Sergio Rodriguez recorded his encounter with homeless men
☑️ The edited video does not show physical contact with the men
☑️ Rodriguez later issued an apology for his reaction
DOVER — A Town Council member charged with assaulting a homeless person Wednesday night now says he regrets his "hasty or nasty" actions.
Dover police said newly elected Democratic Councilman Sergio Rodriguez, 29, approached a group of homeless men in the downtown area at the intersection of East Blackwell and North Sussex streets around 8:50 p.m. after he thought they were drinking alcohol.
Rodriguez kicked the man in the right hand, according to police.
The former intern for U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J. 11th District, followed the other men, forcing them into a roadway, according to police. He then "blocked their route of escape" causing a “dangerous condition,” according to police.
Rodriguez was released after police in the Morris County town charged him with simple assault and harassment.
Rodriguez posted an edited version of the video on his Facebook page showing three men sitting on a bench and one drinking. It was subtitled in English as Rodriguez spoke to them in Spanish.
The video does not show any physical encounter between Rodriguez and the men. Rodriguez challenged Dover police to release the body cam footage of the incident.
In a series of quick edits, a liquid can be heard being poured onto the sidewalk and police are seen chasing one of the individuals. After Rodriguez lectures the men that they should not be drinking in public, one of the men angrily tells police that Rodriguez was selling drugs.
"He is selling drugs. Selling a lot of drugs. Cocaine, crack, everything. That is why he gets jealous. Because he doesn't want us there. You're going to pay," the man says according to the subtitles.
Rodriguez: Police said charges will go "nowhere"
Rodriguez said in another video posted Thursday evening that the three men were not charged with anything and were just told to leave the area despite police witnessing them drinking in public, holding open containers and making a threat directed at Rodriguez.
When the councilman tried to file charges, he said he was told that because they do not have permanent addresses the complaint will go "nowhere."
"It is not up to the police to decide what is harassment, what is a threat. If they see a crime they should be arresting them and giving them summons," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez handcuffed, finger printed
In a third video posted late Friday afternoon, Rodriguez said he was handcuffed to a bench and fingerprinted by police.
"Those three individuals did not get charged with anything. I had to go the next day and file the complaints myself. But the police are able to issue me a summons the next day? We have a real problem here in Dover," Rodriguez said.
"My family and I are not doing well"
By late Saturday night, Rodriguez was backtracking on his criticism of police and their handling of his encounter because of the toll on his family, according to a message on his Facebook page.
"I wholeheartedly agree with any comments that are saying that should not have acted in such an aggressive and harassing way. It is not fit of the office I hold and 100% not the image I want to make of our beautiful town," Rodriguez wrote. "I sincerely apologize to anybody that I responded to in such a nasty or hasty way."
Rodriguez apologized for giving Dover “a black eye” and never meant for this to happen.
The Town Council's next meeting is Tuesday. There is no mention of the incident on the posted agenda.
According to the U.S. Census Dover, had a population of 18,422 as of July 2022, with a median household income of $67,987 and 13.2% living in poverty.
NJ fast food: If you don't have these apps, you're losing money
Gallery Credit: Erin Vogt
New Jersey's St. Patrick's Day Parades 2024 (by date)
Gallery Credit: Dan Alexander
Must-visit NJ restaurants with James Beard nominated chefs
Gallery Credit: Erin Vogt