Paterson police officers under fire for brutal arrest of unarmed deaf Black man

Cyril Josh Barker | 10/4/2018, 10:56 a.m.
Shocking viral video of police aggressively detaining a deaf Black man in Paterson, N.J., is now under investigation.
Police line/crime scene

Shocking viral video of police aggressively detaining a deaf Black man in Paterson, N.J., is now under investigation.

The incident occurred last Friday on Godwin Avenue in Paterson. Reports indicate that officers stopped a car that resulted in a drug arrest. The victim, Raaseon Adams, who is deaf, was not part of the incident but allegedly approached police on the scene.

A nearly 12-minute video posted on Facebook of the incident shows a woman intervening who Adams appeared to know. She is seen urging him to calm down and come with her to prevent him from getting arrested.

After Adams walks away and is off camera, officers rush him, informing him that he is under arrest. Adams allegedly flicked something toward the officers that appeared to be a cigarette. Two officers are seen pushing against Adams while another tries to put him in handcuffs. Clearly not understanding what is going on, Adams tries to get away from police.

As officers wrestle Adams to the ground, onlookers ask officers to stop and tell them that Adams is deaf and that he didn’t understand what the officers were saying.

During the incident, as police are trying to turn Adams over to place him in handcuffs, one officer appears to Mace Adams while other officers are restraining him. As the crowd swells, multiple officers appear on the scene as people continue to tell them that Adams cannot hear.

Adams was eventually placed in handcuffs and placed in a police car. Reports indicate that he was charged with resisting arrest and remains in jail.

Video of the incident has gone viral getting thousands of views. Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said he saw the video and had an emergency meeting this week. An investigation into the incident is being conducted by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.

“I’ve seen the video,” Sayegh said. “I want to see what the prosecutor says as a complete and exhaustive investigation. This is very serious to me—and I want to make sure we assure the public that this is the case.”

The community says the investigation isn’t enough. The officers involved in the arrest have not been named and residents say Adams’ arrest is another example of over policing and that the incident should have been handled better.

Community activist Zellie Thomas said in one report that officers need better training.

“Just having it sent to the prosecutor’s office doesn’t mean justice,” she said. “People need to be trained with those who can’t communicate verbally.”

The National Action Network is also involved, and in a statement, representative Jamie Bland agrees that officers should have better handled things, considering Adams’ disability.

“I think they should have been a little more sensitive to this gentleman, especially because he was deaf,” said Bland.