Ben Crump to represent family of Black teen restrained by police at NJ mall

"It is no secret that dealing with police in America is more dangerous for Black men — and teenagers," said Crump.

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Famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump has been retained by the family of Z’Kye Husain, a Black eight-grader who was forcefully detained by Bridgewater Township police officers after a physical altercation with a white male peer at the Bridgewater Commons Mall. 

As previously reported by theGrio, a viral video of the incident sparked outrage in the community as many described it as evidence of police bias and racism. In the footage captured on a cellphone, Husain and the other teen’s verbal altercation quickly turns physical, according to an NBC News report. Two white officers run onto the scene and pull the teenagers apart.

Benjamin Crump (C) speaks at a news conference on the 2016 fatal police shooting of Terence Crutcher an unarmed Black man, on Sept. 16, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

As the cops arrive, the white teenager — who is larger and older, according to NBC News — is sitting on top of the Black teen pummeling him with punches.  However, the officers pin the Black teen to the ground on his stomach. One officer knees Husain’s back while the other put her knee near the back of his head as they handcuff him. 

The white teen is left alone watching the scene from the couch nearby. 

“Yo, it’s ‘cause he’s Black. Racially motivated,” someone in the crowd can be heard saying in the video as the cops use excessive force on Husain.

Husain told NBC News, “I was, like, calm, because I knew not to be scared. Just stay calm and not move and do what they tell me to do.” 

Husain told WNBC the fight broke out after he confronted the white teenager about picking on his friend. 

“He was kind of saying, like, ‘You’re a little kid, you’re my little pet,’ and stuff like that,” he said.

The white teen, identified as Joseph by CBS News, denies being a bully but told the outlet that he “offered to get detained” while he was on the couch watching Husain’s arrest, but the female officer refused to arrest him. 

“I put my hands up like this and I said, ‘You guys could detain me.’ She said ‘No, because you were calm,'” he said.

Husain’s mother, Eboné, said to NBC New York, “It doesn’t take two cops to hold a 14-year-old boy down who’s not resisting, while the other boy is just kind of going free and still going off on my son. It just doesn’t make sense.”

“Z’Kye was defending a younger friend in the seventh grade who was being bullied by a much older 11th grader when this incident unfolded. Z’Kye, an eighth-grader, was noble to defend his friend from bullies; however, it is evident that officers immediately assumed that because of the color of Z’Kye’s skin, him acting nobly was not even in the realm of possibility. This video says it all,” Crump said in the news release, USA Today reports.

“We recognize that this video has made members of our community upset and are calling for an internal affairs investigation,” the police department said in a statement. (Credit: Screenshot/@AttorneyCrump/Twitter)

“We are so thankful that Z’Kye made it out of this incident with his life. It is no secret that dealing with police in America is more dangerous for Black men — and teenagers —than it is for white men. Z’Kye was no more of a threat to those officers than the white teen who fought with him.

This is another example of the kind of racial bias that we need to root out of our system of policing. These officers need to be reprimanded and retrained to overcome the implicit bias that results in unequal – and often dangerous — treatment of Black people,” Crump said in a statement released to Twitter.

Crump has represented the families of high-profile cases such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Trayvon Martin.

Per the release, an internal affairs investigation is being conducted by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Internal Affairs Unit. 

“The Bridgewater Twp Police Department is aware of a video on social media of our officers stopping a fight in progress at the Bridgewater Commons Mall,” police said in the statement. “We recognize that this video has made members of our community upset and are calling for an internal affairs investigation. The officers were able to respond quickly to this incident and stop it from escalating because of a tip we received from the community.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has recognized the encounter between Husain and the police for what it was, “racially disparate treatment,” he tweeted. 

“Although an investigation is still gathering the facts about this incident, I’m deeply disturbed by what appears to be racially disparate treatment in this video,” Gov. Murphy wrote in a statement on Twitter. “We’re committed to increasing trust between law enforcement and the people they serve.”

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