Video of men torturing another young man has outraged a community, its mayor and most of the hundreds of thousands of people who have viewed it. The images have also has spurred that mayor, Cory Booker of Newark, to anger over the lack of a public response to the violent crime.
The 2 1/2-minute video is brutal to watch. At the same time, however, Booker and other Newark leaders point out that by people seeing it online and calling investigators to help identify the perpetrators, police were able to make arrests.
The images and audio are disturbing from the very beginning of the video. Three men in a narrow passage between two apartment buildings position themselves in a triangle around a young man, preventing him from escaping them.
The ringleader of the trio tells the young man, who police have identified only as a 21 year-old from Newark, to strip. “Take off those drawers,” the ringleader tells his victim, referring to the young man’s underwear, the last item of clothing he wears in the video.
Once the victim is completely naked, another of the three attackers, who is recording the entire August 2012 incident on smartphone video, douses the young man with water from a bottle. “He’s taking a shower,” he taunts. Meanwhile, the attackers’ victim stands helpless, as the situation gets far worse.
The ringleader tells the third man to remove his belt, which the ringleader uses like a whip on his victim. Lashes across his naked body are clearly audible as the young man tries to cover the most sensitive parts of his body with his hands while being beaten with the belt.
The ringleader, who police have now identified as Ahmad Holt, 22, lands seven blows to his victim’s flesh before torturing him verbally.
“Say ‘It’s a dog eat dog world,” Holt orders, as the naked young man stands frightened and confused before him. Holt’s co-conspirators join in. “Say to the camera, ‘It’s a dog eat dog world,” the cameraman demands.
The victim complies, and immediately the ringleader, Holt, slashes him across the face with the belt two more times. Jeers from Holt to the young man indicate that the torturer feels he’s owed $20.00 from the young man’s father, which the victim says in the video he will pay himself.
Viewing the images of raw, criminal aggression could outrage anyone, but particularly angry over the video is the mayor of the city where the incident took place, at 393 Irvine Turner Boulevard.
But Booker was not just talking about the incident of torture itself. He was also referring to the reaction of neighbors to the scene that unfolded between two large apartment buildings on a busy thoroughfare that’s an artery to Interstate 78.
“This crime was not reported. No one called 911,” said Booker, clearly irate over the aftermath of a crime that also upset him. “In the face of evil,” Booker said, “those who remain silent are participants in that evil.”
He went on to say that even though Holt says in the video that he’s after a cash debt owed him, “It’s not about the money. These are people acting on hatred… and a callous disregard for moral values,” said Booker.
The video records a total of 40 lashes to the victim in a file that somebody posted on YouTube. Police would not release the date when the video was put online, but it’s evident that nobody came forward with information about the incident until this month, 23 weeks later.
The victim told police that he never filed a complaint out of fear of his attackers, who were well known in Newark’s South Ward, where the torture occurred.
Earlier this month, however, a local DJ brought attention to the video, which led to it getting at least 40,000 hits on YouTube. That, in turn, led to people contacting police to help identify the torturers.
Police said Wednesday that the man who carried out the beating was Holt, who was already behind bars in Trenton on a separate charge when he was charged this week in the beating. The cameraman detectives identified as Jamaar Gray, 23. The man who provided the belt was Raheem Clark, 31, according to police.
They also arrested Gray’s girlfriend, Nicole Smith, 25, who had apparently been with him at the time of his arrest. She was charged with possession of 20 bricks of heroin.
All three attackers face felony robbery and assault charges. They could face up to 30 years in prison each if found guilty of the crimes. Acting Essex County District Attorney Carolyn Murray told PIX11 News that more charges against the trio, regarding their misuse of the internet, may be pending. Some of those additional charges may be filed at a federal level.