Hospital surveillance camera footage captured what police left out of their report.
Two police officers in Paterson, New Jersey, went to a local hospital March 5 on reports of a man who attempted suicide, video showed. But after the man threw an object into the hallway and insulted one of the cops, the officers grabbed the man’s wheelchair, punched him in the face and pushed him to the ground, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Another video (this one allegedly recorded by Officer Roger Then, 29, on his cellphone) caught the second stage of the assault, prosecutors said. At that point, the victim was in his hospital bed, video showed. Lying on his back, the suicidal man hurled an insult at an unidentified police officer. In response, that officer grabbed a pair of hospital gloves, put them on and “violently struck” the man two times, prosecutors said.
“I ain’t f-----g playing with you,” the unidentified officer told the man, according to prosecutors.
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Federal agents arrested Officer Then Wednesday morning on charges of conspiracy to violate civil rights by using excessive force. He also faces charges for concealing the alleged crime, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
If convicted, the civil rights charge could land Officer Then with up to 10 years in prison, while the charge for allegedly concealing it carries as much as three years. He could also face a fine of as much as $250,000, prosecutors said.
Injuries to the victim’s face and eye were so severe that he required surgery, investigators said.
The unnamed officer “is no longer on active duty” with the police department, as of April 2018, the complaint said.
The two uniformed, on-duty officers initially responded to the man’s home after he attempted suicide the night of March 5, according to the complaint. As the fire department took the man to the St. Joseph’s Medical Center for treatment, police went to the hospital as well.
The first incident unfolded in the waiting room, where the victim was sitting in a wheelchair, the complaint said. Meanwhile, an officer was standing at the hospital’s admissions desk.
That’s when the victim tossed something down the hallway, surveillance video showed. Apparently angry at the man, the officer ran toward the suicidal man “and cocked his right arm as though he was going to punch,” the complaint said. Next the unnamed officer pushed the man’s wheelchair, punched him and sent him falling to the ground — still in the wheelchair, according to the complaint.
At that point, Officer Then “used his right hand to grab the victim by the back of the victim's neck and further push the victim to the ground,” the complaint said.
The second video came from the patient’s room, the complaint said. Officer Then recorded himself on camera “with a large smile across his face” and then turned the camera to show the other officer and the victim lying in the bed, according to the complaint.
“Ha, ha, b---h,” the victim told the officer, according to the complaint.
“I'm a what?” the officer responded in the video.
“Do it,” the victim said, according to the complaint.
At that point, the unnamed officer pulled on the gloves and began assaulting the man, the complaint said. During the assault, the victim used his hands to shield his face. He remained silent, the complaint said.
“Calm your ass down,” the assaulting officer said, according to the complaint.
But none of that is in the relatively short police report, the complaint said. And the officers didn’t disclose the existence of the video on Officer Then’s phone.
In their report, the officers wrote that the man “cut his left wrist with a boxcutter” but that the injury “was non life threatening.” They described the man as “combative,” writing that he began to “throw medical glove boxes at the staff.” The officers wrote that they and security staff “restrained” him so he could be taken for a psychiatric evaluation, according to the complaint.
“It should be noted these officers were advised by the medical staff that [the victim] has a history psychiatric issues,” the officers wrote in their report, according to the criminal complaint against Officer Then.
Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale told NBC New York he couldn’t offer comment on the incident because an investigation into it is ongoing.
“This is not indicative of the Paterson Police Department,” Speziale told the Paterson Times, adding that the city's department began the investigation with the FBI hoping to “clean house.”
Officer Then’s arrest is the fourth in the department in recent months, the Bergen Record reports. The other arrests were not related to the incident involving Officer Then.