Lawyer: Video shows NJ cop attacking woman he’d allegedly attacked before
Video posted by photographyisnotacrime.com
The attorney for a woman who says she was attacked not once, but twice by the same Bridgeton police officer tells New Jersey 101.5 the incident has "affected her life in a big way."
"She’s got severe emotional distress from having her rights violated, she’s had medical attention, she’s had a surgery," said, Gregg Zeff, attorney for Marella Lawson of Seabrook,
A year after she filed a lawsuit claiming she was abused by a Bridgeton police officer, Lawson was pulled over by the same patrolman, on March 31 of this year. In an amended suit, claims she was abused again during that stop.
A video of the March 31 incident, captured by the dashboard camera in a patrol car, shows officers ordering Lawson to exit her orange Dodge Neon after being stopped for suspicion of a suspended license.
A portion of that video was posted online by PhotographyIsNotACrime.com (above). Earlier moments can be seen in a version of the video incorporated into a Fox 29 report (below). New Jersey 101.5 has requested a copy of the full video from authorities.
Her attorney says that Lawson refused to get out of the car when she noticed that the officer who approached the vehicle — Bridgeton Police Officer Shane Sawyers — was the same patrolman with whom she had an encounter on April 20, 2013.
Lawson then called 911 for help as officers continued to order her to exit the car, her attorney said. When she refused, Sawyers used his baton to break a window on the passenger's side of the car, open the door then attempt to pull her out, the attorney said. Two other officers take part in the stop as well.
She's heard several times in the video telling officers "Please leave me alone" and "don't touch me." As officers reach into the car, she yells "He's beating me, he's beating me, help me Jesus, he's beating me." Officers yell back "stop resisting arrest" and "you are under arrest."
During the arrest, Lawson can be heard in the video repeatedly screaming about an injury known as "frozen shoulder" that affects many diabetics, saying as three officers restrain her that her arm won't go behind her. The officers continue to yell "stop resisting" as she insists she's not. "My arm is messed up" she says several times, as an officer tells her "you're making this worse."
Eventually, the three officers take Lawson to the ground and handcuff her behind her back.
In the 2013 incident, Sawyers and Officer Robert Robbins went to Lawson's home to charge her with contempt of court after she violated a no contact order," according to the lawsuit. While there, Lawson informed police that she was diabetic and asked if she could finish her meal, knowing that it if she was taken to jail, it could be while before she was able to eat again, it says.
Saying he thought she had eaten enough, Sawyers ordered Robbins to remove her plate and as she reached for a glass of orange juice, Sawyers "grabbed her by the arm and bent it behind her back," according to the lawsuit filed February in U.S. Federal Court for the District of New Jersey.
Lawson "screamed in pain," and told Sawyers that her arm could not be bent because of her injury, the lawsuit says. The officers said she was resisting arrest when she asked for her hands to be cuffed in front of her body.
"Instead of cuffing (the) plaintiff, Defendant Sawyers punched her in the face and kicked her. While still on the floor, Defendant Robbins held Plaintiff by her legs as Sawyers pulled her hair and banged her head against the floor," the lawsuit states of the 2013 arrest, adding that she was also sprayed with mace.
Lawson's attorney claims his client's civil rights were violated an in the lawsuit states that "without any justification or provocation, Defendant Officers willfully and maliciously caused Plaintiff to suffer injuries psychologically, and physically."
"She was only stopped for an expired registration," Zeff said. "She wasn't exactly a criminal."
The attorney said criminal charges are still pending at the moment and "once those are through I suppose the litigation will go forward and conclude with trial or settlement next year."
Bridgeton Police Chief Michael Gaimari told Fox 29 that his officers were cleared of criminal violations but an internal affairs investigation is pending. He could not be reached for comment. Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly also could not be reached for comment.
In August, a grand jury chose not to file charges against two other Bridgeton officers, involved in a December 2014 traffic stop in which passenger 36-year-old Jerame Reid was shot dead by police police.
An account by the Cumberland County Prosecutor's office — a summary of the office’s findings that were presented to the grand jury — says both officers involved in the Bridgeton stop pointed their guns at the car’s occupants when they discovered a handgun inside the vehicle. One of the officers had previously arrested Reid — and both knew he’d been arrested for shooting at an officer before, it says.
The driver complied with the officers commands, sticking his hands out of the car window. But Reid made his way out of the car as Officer Braheme Days shouted profanity-laden orders not to move, according to the account. The officer blocked the door, but Reid forced his way out, it says. That left Reid and the officer face-to-face, and Days felt he and his partner were in imminent danger when they opened fire, the prosecutor’s office said.
Toniann Antonelli is the digital managing editor at NJ 101.5. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.