No charges for cops who pepper-sprayed, hit deaf man

The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office will not file any criminal charges against the Paterson police officers involved in a physical altercation with a deaf and speech-impaired man who approached them on the street last month.  

The incident was captured on video and widely shared on social media. It showed a man, who bystanders told police was deaf, approach an officer as he provided backup for an unrelated arrest on Sept. 28 on Godwin Avenue.

It was unclear from the video what originally angered the man, Raaseon Adams, or why he approached the officers. But the video shows, as he walks away, Adams growing even more irritated after an officer is seen laughing.

An officer can be seen charging at Adams after it appears Adams threw something in the direction of the officer. A law enforcement source told NJ Advance Media that Adams flicked a cigarette in the direction of the officer. As officers wrestle with Adams on the ground, an officer can be seen pepper-spraying him and hitting him in the back of the head.

Adams was charged with resisting arrest. He was taken to the Passaic County Jail, but jail records indicate he was released. 

The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office announced it was investigating the actions of the officers involved in the altercation, which played out on a Paterson street in front of a large crowd.

On Monday, Mayor Andre Sayegh released about the results of the prosecutor’s investigation.

“The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, in consultation with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, has determined that the use of physical and mechanical force in that incident does not give rise to criminal charges against any of the involved officers based upon the New Jersey Attorney General’s Use of Force Policy and the New Jersey criminal code,” the statement said.

“Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes and Paterson Chief of Police Troy Oswald will review the entire police response to the incident to determine if all departmental policies and guidelines were followed and take administrative or corrective action, if appropriate. Moreover, Prosecutor Valdes and Chief Oswald will review current de-escalation training to determine if additional or modified training should be undertaken.

We are appreciative of and encouraged by the actions of community members to help de-escalate the incident,” the statement continued. “We need to see more of that from police officers and the community. Leaders from Operation Ceasefire have organized listening sessions in each ward to ensure that this dialogue continues, at which I and members of my administration will fully participate.”

Adams’ attorney, Aymen Aboushi, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Paterson Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale told NJ Advance Media, “There is a system in place to ensure the integrity of investigations and the matter was turned over immediately to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office for review and then the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unity and clearly they vetted the facts and the outcome has been determined.

We work extremely hard to build trust and legitimacy with the community and it’s extremely important to be seen as legitimate,” he continued. “That’s why in these types of situations we always go to those outside independent agencies to review these types of matters so that it’s not us reviewing those matters. In my 37 years of law enforcement and in my five years in the city of Paterson, I have never found a police officer that walks in (to the station) with the mindset of using force when they get there.” 

Alex Napoliello may be reached at anapoliello@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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