Newark police dispute claims of brutality with newly released bodycam video

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NEWARK — Newark’s public safety department released bodycam footage Friday they say shows officers outnumbered during an arrest on Tuesday in which the union claimed officers were set upon by a mob.

Newark Public Safety Director Brian A. O’Hara announced Friday that due to what he called “rumors and erroneous reports” regarding the incident of aggravated assault against police on Tuesday, the body-worn camera footage related to the incident was being released.

“Typically, when a criminal investigation is underway, we don’t release the footage per policy,” O’Hara said. “Regardless, when police wear body worn cameras, the public expects that we have nothing to hide. Therefore, I believe it is in the best interest of the public to release this video —especially in light of all the false information circulating about this incident.”

The original incident happened at around 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Two officers were patrolling the area of Fabyan Place and Cypress Street in response to recent gun violence in that area. They approached a group of men on Cypress Street and attempted to stop one male who was suspected of gun possession. Two brothers of the suspect came to the scene and physically interfered with the arrest.

Two police officers were taken to a hospital for treatment of complaints of pain and four men were arrested as a result of this incident.

Branden K. Rodwell, 31, of Newark, and Justin Rodwell, 30, of Irvington, were arrested at the scene. Jaykil A. Rodwell, 28, and Jasper D. Spivey, 24, both of Newark, were arrested on Wednesday, after voluntarily surrendering to police following issuances of arrest warrants for each on charges related to this incident.

Branden and Justin Rodwell each face charges of three counts of aggravated assault against a police officer, obstruction of the administration of the law and resisting arrest. Jaykil Rodwell and Jasper Spivey each face charges of three counts of aggravated assault against a police officer, obstruction of the administration of the law and hindering apprehension or prosecution. The investigation is ongoing. 

Police did not find a gun at the scene.

This comes after a cellphone video obtained by PIX11 News Thursday showed a portion of the encounter. The video picks up after plainclothes officers aggressively approached Robert Tyson’s stepson, he says.

“They approached my stepson the wrong way,” said Tyson.

Moments later, according to Tyson and before the cellphone video begins, his other son ran outside to help his brother, unaware the men in plainclothes were actually cops.

Newark Fraternal Order of Police President James Stewart’s characterized the encounter in a local news article, in which he officers being pummeled to the ground, kicked in the head, and choked.

“They tried to say the police was jumped by a mob,” Tyson claimed. “The police wasn’t jumped by a mob.”

A mob attack on officers is not shown on the cellphone video, and there aren’t any signs of injured officers recovering from a mob beating in the clip.

But almost 90 seconds into the video, there are at least three officers in the frame surrounding and handcuffing Branden Rodwell as they forcibly bring him down headfirst, into the sidewalk.

“The police handled the situation wrong and my stepson handled it a little bit wrong,” Tyson claims.

Robert’s wife, Monique, has a different take.

“They picked him up and bow — right on his face! Really hard! And I’m like what the heck? They told me one story but then when I see the video, it’s a whole different story from what the police told me,” she said.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka released a lengthy, blistering statement Thursday, condemning FOP President Stewart’s comments.

“The false narrative put forth feeds the old and archaic thinking that police are an occupying force, always in danger from a hostile community, rather than goodwill guardians of a community that has a growing respect and cooperation with one another,” Baraka said.

The Public Safety Department head agreed.

“In today’s climate, where similarly minor incidents have resulted in unpredictable outcomes, our officers ensured that not one of the civilians involved was injured, and that is highly commendable,” O’Hara said. “I thank Mayor Baraka, who personally responded to the scene that day, for deploying the City of Newark’s Code Enforcement Officers and members of the Department of Public Works to assess the safety of the area, which has been a hotspot for gun violence over the past few weeks.”

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