PLAINFIELD — Authorities say a 49-year-old Dunellen man had to be pepper-sprayed, punched repeatedly and have his head placed under an officer’s knee before he allowed cops to arrest him.

Portions of the violent arrest were captured on video by at least one witness, who shared it on Instagram. A copy of the video was shared on Facebook, prompting concerns from city residents about excessive use of force.

Public Safety Director Carl Riley said police body camera footage would be provided to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office for review.

Police were called to the 100 block of Watchung Avenue about 10:50 a.m. Thursday on a report of a “disorderly person breaking dishes inside the business," Riley said in response to questions from New Jersey 101.5.

Riley said that when Leon Brown saw that police had arrived, he “hastily walked out,” ignoring police commands to stop.

When cops tried to stop him, he “became extremely irate” and officers eventually had to take him to the ground after becoming “enraged” when told he was being arrested.

Police said they were concerned because Brown kept his hands under his body and officers did not know if he had a weapon.

“The officer then used a level of force and sprayed Mr. Brown with two short burst of Oleoresin Capsicum (OC spray),” Riley said in a statement.

Police said Brown continued to hide his hands, so they “then used the next level of force and briefly struck Mr. Brown four times in his lower right side with a closed fist in an attempt to stun him to get his hands away from his body so they can be secured,” Riley said. “After the fourth strike combined with an officer kneeling on him, Mr. Brown then complied and was successfully placed under arrest.”

Brown was charged with obstruction and resisting arrest. Riley said Brown was treated for exposure to the pepper spray and did not suffer other injuries.

New Jersey 101.5 did not know Thursday whether Brown had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email

Sign up for the Newsletter

Get the best of delivered to your inbox every day.