Man allegedly punched, stomped, kicked, and bitten by dog before dying in police custody

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A New Jersey man died while in police custody Tuesday, and the incident is now under investigation.

Police say the incident happened at 10:53am when Vineland Police responded to a call about a disorderly man. They arrived on the scene and found 32-year-old Phillip White.

“Shortly thereafter, officers called for medical assistance in response to White appearing to be in respiratory distress,” a spokesperson for the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office said to NBC Philadelphia. “During the incident White was handcuffed and restrained.”

White was taken to a hospital in an emergency vehicle accompanied by police. Officials say that White became unresponsive and CPR was performed on him by medical personnel. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.  However, what is in dispute is what happened between the moment police arrived on the scene and his death. 

“They punched him, stomped him, kicked him and then they let the dog out of the car,” said Ricardo Garcia. “The dog bit him on his face and around his body. There’s no call for that. Once a man is handcuffed and unconscious, you should have stuck him in the patrol car and take him to the police station. Instead they decided to beat him right here.”

Another witness seems to back up Garcia’s account. Luis Martinez said White did nothing wrong and that police were using excessive force.

“The other cop let the dog out and they just kept punching him and the dog kept biting him at the same time,” Martinez said. “He was on the floor. Like, he was knocked out.”

However, law enforcement is disputing their claims.  A source told NBC Philadelphia that White had a violent struggle with police and that he remained combative and conscious while being arrested.

“Sadly, this call for service resulted in an ‘in–custody, non-shooting death’ which is being investigated by the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s office,” said Vineland Police Chief Timothy Codispoti.

Chief Codispoti sent his condolences to the family: “Our sincere thoughts and prayers are with the family of the deceased and with the Officers involved,” he said.” I ask that everyone allow time for our justice system to now investigate this matter to its truthful conclusion. The Vineland Police Department is cooperating with the prosecutor’s office and I urge anyone with information regarding this incident to contact the prosecutor’s office with your information. At this time updates regarding the progress of this investigation are being released through the prosecutor’s office.”