No gun was found at the location where Newark police allegedly injured Tuesday while attempting to make an arrest related to suspected gun possession, Essex County prosecutors told NJ Advance Media.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka on Thursday rejected the police union president’s version of what happened during the arrest. He accused the President of Newark FOP Lodge No. 12, James Stewart, to spread a “false story” about the officers who were knocked to the ground and attacked by a mob.
Brian O’Hara, director of public safety for Newark, previously said two Newark police officers and an Essex County prosecutor’s detective approached a group of men around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in an attempt to stop someone suspected of possessing a gun has been. Officials patrolled Fabayan Place and Cypress Street in response to recent gun violence in the area, O’Hara said.
Two of the suspect’s brothers came to the scene and “physically disrupted” the arrest, and officers called for reinforcements, O’Hara said. Two officers were injured trying to make the arrest and taken to the university hospital with minor injuries, O’Hara said.
The two officers have been released from the hospital, officials said. Four men were eventually arrested in connection with the incident.
The mayor said “two men tried to interfere in the arrest” but added that “while a small group of people gathered they did not attack the police in any way”. Baraka also said Stewart’s version of the incident “feared our officials that they were dealing with a hostile community and sent the community an implicit message that our police force was fair game”.
“The false narrative feeds the ancient and archaic thought that the police are an occupying power always threatened by a hostile community, and not the guardians of the goodwill of a community that enjoys growing respect and cooperation with one another,” said Baraka in declaration Thursday morning. “That’s what we’re building in Newark, to be honest.”
A Baraka spokeswoman declined to clarify whether the mayor believed none of the officers had been attacked by the four men accused.
Stewart previously told NJ Advance Media that three officers were “attacked by a crowd” while trying to make the arrest. He refused to comment on Thursday when asked about Baraka’s testimony.
“Our officers were knocked to the ground, kicked in the head and suffocated,” Stewart previously told NJ Advance Media. “Body-worn cameras were forcibly removed and smashed to the floor by the suspects.”
The Newark Public Safety Department has not yet released any body camera footage or police reports of the incident, despite repeated requests from NJ Advance Media. An open public records application submitted by NJ Advance Media is pending, although the city has seven business days to complete it.
The incident is currently under investigation by the Essex County Attorney’s Office, agency spokeswoman Katherine Carter confirmed. Only two Newark police officers went to the hospital in connection with the incident and not the prosecutor’s detective, she said.
A gun was not found at the scene, Carter added.
Branden K. Rodwell, 31, of Newark, and Justin Rodwell, 30, of Irvington, were arrested at the scene, O’Hara said. Jaykil A. Rodwell, 28, and Jasper D. Spivey, 24, both from Newark, were arrested Wednesday after they presented themselves to police after warrants were issued for each on “charges related to this incident,” said he.
Branden and Justin Rodwell are each charged with three counts of aggravated assault against a police officer, obstruction of the law and resisting arrest, police said. Jaykil Rodwell and Spivey will each face three counts of aggravated assault against a police officer, obstruction of justice and obstruction of arrest or prosecution, officials said.
A prosecutor’s attorney is representing Branden Rodwell, but an agency spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A lawyer listed for Justin Rodwell was unavailable, while the other two defendants had not yet listed any lawyers.
Both the mayor and the chairman of the police union praised the officials’ reluctance. Neither suspect was injured, and the two men accused of disrupting the arrest volunteered, Baraka said.
“Another truth about the incident is that the two men who interfered in the arrest voluntarily presented themselves, evidence that despite their actions, they know they have acted irresponsibly and themselves, the police and have put their community at risk, “Mayor said.
Union President Stewart urged Baraka to issue a statement calling on prosecutors to use their full resources to convict everyone involved in the alleged attack. Baraka replied that the prosecution was already working on the investigation.
The mayor said he visited the site of the incident, although it is unclear when, and sent DPW and Code Enforcement teams with him as “community ambassadors”.
Local journalism needs your support. Subscribe at nj.com/supporter.
Rebecca Panico can be reached at [email protected]