Bridgewater, NJ mall wants Black teen’s family to pay for damage from arrest
BRIDGEWATER — Bridgewater Commons mall is being criticized for asking the family of a Black teen to pay for damage caused by an arrest that has raised questions about whether police treated the Black teen more harshly than a lighter-skinned teen involved in a fight.
"This offensive and unacceptable demand of payment continues to exemplify the disparate treatment of white families and Black families in America," civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the family of the Black teen, said in a written statement.
"The only people who should be asked to pay for the damaged table are those who engaged in biased policing and caused it to be damaged – The Bridgewater Police Department.”
The eighth grader’s mother was told by mall security that she would have to pay for a table the officer knocked over while tackling her son, Crump said.
Local officials remained quiet about a week into the review of the officers’ use of force in the arrest. On Saturday, a civil rights group held a demonstration outside the police department. Groups such as the NAACP, local chapters of the Black Lives Matter movement and the New Jersey chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations have called on the officers to be removed from the force.
The officers tackled the Black teen to the ground and put a knee on his back to handcuff him. An officer, meanwhile, guided the lighter-skinned teen to a couch and left him unrestrained.
“We are aware of the incident and both of the young individuals involved were immediately banned from our property for the next three years,” a mall spokesperson said in a statement first issued on Wednesday.
“As this is a police matter and currently under investigation, please direct further inquiries to the Bridgewater Township Police Department.”
The mall declined further comment when asked about whether a security guard had told Z’Kye Husain's mother that they would be held financially responsible for the toppled furniture.
The other teen involved, seen on the video unattended as the second officer assists the first in handcuffing Husain, has been identified as Umar Joseph Franco, who is of Hispanic and Middle Eastern descent, according to NJ.com.
"I know what the cops did was wrong, so they should have consequences," Franco previously said to MyCentralJersey.com. "I didn't see him resisting at all."
Since the video went viral, the NAACP has called for the officers to be “removed” from the Bridgewater Police Department pending the ongoing investigation by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office as to the use of force.
Now, the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) has joined the call for both officers to be removed from duty amid the review.
“The incident is outrageous. The disparate treatment the two teens received by the police officers highlights the blatant racism that continues to clout the judgment of so many in law enforcement,” CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said in a written statement Monday.
“There must be zero tolerance for such inappropriate behavior.”