Newark police have charged three people with taking part in whipping a naked man on Irvine Turner Boulevard in August, a crime captured on a viral video that has shone an unwelcome spotlight on the rough justice sometimes meted out on the streets of the state’s largest city.
“This is not who we are. We are Newark. We do not tolerate this level of cruelty... we do not tolerate this kind of evil in this community,” a visibly upset Mayor Cory Booker said during a press conference Wednesday.
The conference was called to announce that the three suspects -- Ahmad Holt, 22, Jamaar Gray, 23 and Raheem Clark, 31 -- were all in custody as of last night. Holt was already in prison in Trenton when he was identified as a suspect, Police Director Samuel DeMaio said. Gray turned himself in and Clark was captured by the department’s fugitive apprehension squad, DeMaio also said.
A fourth person, Gray’s girlfriend Nicole Smith, 25, was arrested on an unrelated drug charge.
The video, uploaded to an urban media website and to YouTube, shows three men cornering a fourth man in an alley during the daytime. The assailants command him to strip, then one of them -- identified Wednesday by DeMaio as Holt -- whips the victim with a belt provided by Clark, DeMaio said. Gray is believed to have been the person filming the attack and is also seen squirting water on the victim as he screamed in pain.
DeMaio declined to comment on a motive, but in the video, the men refer to a $20 debt owed by the victim’s father. The victim, whose name was not released, is a 21-year-old city resident who has since moved from the neighborhood, Booker and DeMaio said.
All three suspects face robbery, assault and weapons charges, the last stemming from the use of the belt. All three also have gang affiliations, DeMaio said.
Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray said more charges may be pending but declined to elaborate.
It was unclear precisely when the video first surfaced, but police were made aware of its existence Feb. 8 after it had circulated widely online. Police immediately launched an investigation and “quickly ascertained” that the attack occurred in the summer months, DeMaio said. Investigators were also able to identify the location as 393 Irvine Turner Boulevard. After canvassing the neighborhood, police were then able to learn the identity of the victim and to locate suspects.
The victim “was reluctantly cooperative, that was out of fear,” DeMaio said, adding that investigators worked “around the clock” to solve the crime.
“It was not a question of when do we go home. We go home” when we make the arrests, DeMaio said.
Booker praised those residents who saw the video and were outraged, but acknowledged there was a “subculture” within the city who believe the incident is merely the price paid by those enmeshed in Newark’s cycle of violence and crime. Some neighborhood residents even reportedly expressed the feeling that the beating administered by the men in the video was appropriate and that the victim should be grateful it wasn’t worse.
Booker, however, while recognizing that some potential witnesses may have been too frightened to call the police, had no patience for that line of thinking.
“This crime was not reported. No one called 9-1-1,” Booker said. “In the face of evil, those who remain silent are participating in that evil.”
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