A nationally respected attorney intends to file a federal complaint against four Atlantic City, New Jersey, police officers who allegedly beat an African American teen senseless.
The attorney, William H. Buckman, an expert in civil rights law, whose offices are in nearby Moorestown, has confirmed that he will file the complaint within days on behalf of the teen, Trent Brewer, Jr., in federal district court.
Buckman, according to a 2002 Philadelphia Inquirer article, “has emerged as one of the region’s most prominent civil rights lawyers and a national expert on racial profiling.” In 1996, in State v. Soto, the article continued, “Buckman was part of a legal team that convinced a Superior Court judge in Gloucester County that state troopers were targeting minorities for traffic stops and searches.”
And the Inquirer noted, “the landmark ruling–the first in the country to recognize racial profiling as a problem–led to U. S. Justice Department oversight of all New Jersey Turnpike stops and changes in other states.”
Before the night Brewer was allegedly beaten–on January 27, 2012–he had not had any prior contact with law enforcement, much less warnings for minor infractions. Brewer, who high school teachers often compliment for good behavior, is also known community-wide for quiet, respectful conduct.
Yet Brewer, many African Americans insist, isn’t the only Black victim of egregious police brutality in this seaside, gambling resort promoted for nearly a century as “the nation’s playground. Instead, they charge, he is simply one of the latest victims.
Given early coverage by print and electronic news media, Brewer’s alleged beating is perhaps the most highly publicized such incident seen in Atlantic City and the surrounding area in many years.
Determined efforts by Brewer’s mother, Andrea Gray, to “seek justice” for what she describes as “a vicious police attack,” has also played a major role in keeping her son in the public eye.
Gray continues to shine a spotlight on what she said was “a brutal police assault on a defenseless child.” She’s received immeasurable support from New Jersey civil rights advocate Terence Jones and Steven Young, the president of the National Action Network’s South Jersey chapter,
Meanwhile, news coverage of the demonstrations, rallies and town hall meetings dramatizing Brewer’s plight have raised his name recognition well beyond that of Blacks who have charged police officers with egregious brutality in recent years.
Young said that the “Trent Brewer case has a great deal of national significance because it’s rooted in the same racial profiling that afflicts African American young men throughout Atlantic City, Atlantic County, the state of New Jersey and the nation.”
Unlike the Trayvon Martin case, which continues to arrest the nation’s attention, Young said, “several witnesses saw the brutal assault on Trent Brewer and photographed it on their cell phones.” Moreover, Young added, “Trent Brewer, although he was badly beaten, is alive to testify about the beating and tell his story.”
Since mid-February, Jones has helped guide Gray’s efforts to hold Mayor Lorenzo Langford, city council members and police chief Ernest Jubilee accountable for the officers’ alleged actions. He became aware of the alleged beating by Florida-based police abuse website.
Gray, a resourceful assistant in the Pleasantville, New Jersey, Public Library, utilized the Internet in her quest “for justice for my son.” She told reporters that her search led to police abuse website, founded by Diop Kamali (formerly Don Jackson), once a Hawthorne, California, policeman and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy.
Located in northern Florida, the organization offers counseling, guidance and referral services to victims of police brutality. Typically these victims are poor, struggling families, Blacks and other minorities.
Kamali’s profile as a fearless foe of police brutality was raised by a series of nationally televised “stings” designed to tape officers’ “lawless acts of brutality.” Network reporters and camera crews captured several instances of such egregious treatment, the first one in Long Beach, California.
Kamali’s journey as an agitator for justice was spurred by the brutal beating inflicted on his aging, ailing father by officers in 1987.
Several White officers–at gun point–forced his father, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy returning from Rialto with his pregnant daughter and her small children–to exit his SUV. The elder Jackson begged the officers to reach into his pocket and retrieve his Sheriff’s Deputy’s identification.
The officers ignored his offer to pull photo identification out of his pocket and to show it to them.
While his helpless, horrified daughter and the children looked on, the officers pummeled the elder Jackson, who had survived heart surgery and wore a protective kidney device.
Kamali retired from both departments in 1989.
Now, as a staunch advocate for victims of police brutality, he referred Gray to Richard Rivera, another former police officer who defends and supports victims of police brutality. Rivera, in turn, contacted Jones and asked him to investigate what appeared to be a wanton attack on Brewer.
Jones said that he “first interviewed eye witnesses who attested to the beating and photographed it on their cell phones.” Within days after his interviews, Jones “requested a formal investigation into the ‘alleged misconduct’ of Police Chief Ernest Jubilee and Deputy Chief Henry White, Sr.”
Attorney Buckman declined to discuss his federal complaint on Brewer’s behalf. In it, however, he alleges that late on January 27, 2012, the four officers–three Whites and one Black–attacked and stomped Brewer after he asked the Black officer, “who are you?”
None of the officers, who leaped from an unmarked car to confront Brewer, his stepfather and two friends, identified themselves as members of a law enforcement agency or presented official badges, according to witnesses.
Although Brewer asked a seemingly harmless question, the Black officer retorted, “I’ll show you who I am” and knocked Brewer to the ground, according to the witnesses. The other three officers, the witnesses claim, joined their Black companion and “stomped and kicked” Brewer.
When Brewer’s shocked stepfather and friends asked why the officers were beating him, the policemen, witnesses said, threatened to beat them as well.
The officers also threatened to arrest the witnesses if they continued to photograph them, according to sources.
The beating, according to the complaint, was so severe and intense that Brewer’s left eye was rammed out of its socket. Brewer’s left eye, which sustained permanent, irreparable damage, is no longer capable of providing normal vision.
Brewer has since had two eye surgeries at the internationally respected Wills Eye Clinic in Philadelphia and is scheduled for another, on the right eye, which his mother said is “deflating.”
Chief Jubilee, according to Jones’ demand, violated at least six requirements clearly spelled out in the New Jersey Attorney-General’s Internal Affairs & Policy Procedures manual when Gray, in a telephone call, asked him to identify the officers who “brutally assaulted her son “without provocation.”
First, Jones’ complaint alleged, “Chief Jubilee failed to accept Ms. Gray’s complaint of “police brutality” over the phone. Next, the complaint states, “he failed to provide any information or paperwork to Ms. Gray concerning the arrest of her son and told her she had to set up an appointment with Internal Affairs to file a complaint against the four officers who assaulted her son.”
Chief Jubilee, Jones alleged, “knowingly & willfully violated Requirement Two of the Attorney General’s Internal Affairs Policy and Procedures of New Jersey.”
Requirement Two, Jones pointed out, mandates that “every law enforcement agency must accept reports of officer misconduct from any person, including anonymous sources, at any time.” It further instructs that “complaints of officer misconduct shall be accepted from all persons who wish to file a complaint regardless of the hour or day of the week. This includes reports from anonymous sources, juveniles and persons under arrest or in custody.”
Further, Jones, noted in his complaint, “Chief Jubilee ‘unlawfully protected’ his ‘rogue’ police officers. He turned a blind eye and deaf ear to Ms. Gray’s complaints of “police brutality.”
Gray, in a long statement last week, said, “coping with what the police officers did to my son has been very, very difficult for me.”
She has apprehensions over young Brewer’s safety and fears “he may be beaten again.” Gray said they mount each time Brewer leaves home. “I worry that someone will come to my home and tell me my son has been arrested or killed by police officers,” she said.
Gray said she has “anxiety attacks everytime I see law enforcement officers” and calls “Trent constantly to be sure he’s okay.”
Testifying before the city council about her son’s plight, Gray said, “has been very hard for me. At first, I didn’t know what to do.”
The four police officers, she said, “put my son in the hospital and damn near killed him. I was scared and didn’t know what to do, who to call or who to trust.”
“I just took things into my own hands because I knew I couldn’t let them get away with what they did, so I contacted policeabuse.com to see if an outside agency would help me get justice for my son,” Gray said.
While waiting for a return call, Gray said, she “contacted the Press of Atlantic City newspaper and left a message for staff writer Lynda Cohen.” In Gray’s message, she asked Cohen to expose the alleged beating and said she wasn’t afraid that angry police officers might seek revenge.
“I wanted the world to know what is going on here in Atlantic City and how the people who are supposed to “protect and serve” treat our youth.”
Requests on Monday for comments from the mayor, police chief and City Council President William Marsh were referred to William Glass, Atlantic City’s Director of Public Safety, who supervises Jubilee.
Glass said that he could not comment on whether the four officers are guilty of what appears to have been an unprovoked, brutal attack. To do so, Glass said, “might give the impression” that he is attempting to “influence the case.”
When asked about the incomplete Internal Affairs Investigation into Brewer’s alleged beating, which the Atlantic City Police Department reportedly launched in early February, Glass said, “it is being conducted by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.”
Meanwhile, Glass said he is unaware of threats the officers allegedly made when the witnesses photographed them.