Video of New Jersey Teenager’s Violent Arrest Prompts Protests


Lying on the pavement of a parking lot, Cyprian Luke’s face reddened as an officer’s hand clamped his throat.

“Put your hands behind your back!” the officer shouted, then punched Mr. Luke twice in the temple.

By the time Mr. Luke, 19, was dragged to a police cruiser, his mouth and face were bloody and raw.

Footage of the Sunday incident in Dover, N.J., was the latest online posting to prompt cries of police brutality and racism, exposing a rift in another community that feels terrorized by its own authorities.

The graphic video starts with Mr. Luke already on the ground with officers arresting him. It remains unclear what happened before Mr. Luke’s friend, Marcus Robinson, began to record on his cellphone.

On Sunday night, dozens of protesters stood outside police headquarters in Dover, in northern New Jersey, with signs that read “Stop racism now” while chanting, “We will not be silenced! Police are violent!”

The officers who arrested Mr. Luke appeared to be white in a bystander’s video of the incident. Carolyn Blackman, a town alderwoman and mayoral candidate who is black, said Mr. Luke identifies as Afro-Latino.

“Brutality by law enforcement against the very people they are duty bound to protect and serve is unacceptable and must be eradicated,” she said in a statement.

The Dover mayor, James P. Dodd, said Mr. Luke had a warrant out for his arrest and had resisted the officers. There was no evidence race played a role, he said.

Mr. Dodd, who has been mayor of the town for 13 years, called the video “disturbing.” But he cautioned that it was only a snippet of the full arrest and could be taken out of context.

“I am concerned for the young man, Mr. Luke, and I am concerned for the police officers involved,” he said. “People should really allow the investigation to take its course. And believe me when I tell you, I will not tolerate any abuse by police officers to any resident.”

Mr. Dodd said the town had put aside funds in the 2019 budget for body cameras, which would be given later this year to the department’s 35 officers.

Two patrol officers and one sergeant involved in Sunday’s arrest have been put on administrative leave while the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office conducts an investigation under the supervision of the New Jersey attorney general.

Officers approached Mr. Luke, a resident of Morristown, about 2 a.m. behind Krauszer’s, a small convenience store across the street from the Dover police station.

Mr. Luke had been charged with assaulting a woman during a domestic fight in February, then violated an order of protection in May, according to the criminal division of the Morris County Courthouse. A warrant had been issued for his arrest on May 14.

The video begins with Mr. Luke lying on his side as an officer grabs the hood of his orange sweatshirt and attempts to pull Mr. Luke’s hand behind his back.

“Stop resisting!” the officer shouts, then punches Mr. Luke in the face. “Stop resisting!” he shouts again. The officer grabs Mr. Luke’s ear, then presses an elbow onto his face. Another punch.

“Are you going to put your hands behind your back?” the officer asks repeatedly. After a few more punches are thrown, Mr. Luke appears to be bleeding from a cut above his right eye. His mouth is bloody as he is ordered to roll over even though another officer has a knee planted on his stomach.

Mr. Robinson makes comments as he films the video, urging Mr. Luke to roll over and put his hands out, but also protesting the officers’ actions. “Look at his face, look at his face!” he says.

A recent investigation by reported that between 2012 and 2016, Dover Police used force at a higher rate than most police departments in the state.

“They are allowed to escalate as they are placing someone under arrest,” Daniel DeGroot, Dover public safety director, said Monday. “If there is resistance, they are allowed to escalate it one notch higher, in order to accomplish the arrest of the person.”

On Monday, Mr. Luke appeared at the Morris County Criminal Court in Morristown, where he was charged with resisting arrest and providing false information to the police. His attorney, Tracy Denholtz, declined to comment on the charges. Mr. Luke was being held at the Morris County jail on Tuesday evening.

His mother, Mary Yurley, told reporters outside the courthouse that her son was scheduled to have a CT scan.

“He’s blessed, he could have been killed,” she said. “It’s traumatizing. It’s too much. But I am thankful he is alive.”

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