(CNN) — A video showing police officers breaking up a fight between a black teenager and a white teenager at a New Jersey shopping mall has sparked outrage over the police response.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Wednesday that “the appearance of what is racially disparate treatment is deeply disturbing.”
A video of the incident reviewed by CNN shows the teens arguing before the white teen points a finger at the black teen’s face, and the black teen pushes the white teen’s hand back. The white teen pushes the black teen, who starts throwing punches at the other guy. The white teen hits back.
The black teen ends up on the ground. Two Bridgewater Township police officers arrive and separate the two minors.
The black teenager starts to get up and a police officer pins him to the ground and rolls him face down, hands behind his back. The other police officer pushes the white teen onto a nearby couch and then helps handcuff the black teen. Eventually, the cops lift the black teen in handcuffs.
It is not clear from the video how the incident between the minors escalated or what happened after the black teen was handcuffed.
The Bridgewater Township Police Department said in a Facebook post that they are aware that video of the incident upset members of the community. They have asked the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the incident.
“We recognize that this video has upset members of our community and we are calling for an internal affairs investigation,” the department wrote.
Mother of black teen angered by police response
The black teenager, whose name is Kye, and his mother, Ebone, spoke to CNN on Wednesday about the circumstances of the fight and their thoughts on the police reaction. CNN is not using the family’s last name at their request.
“I hate to say this, but if it’s not race, then why is it?” Ebone told CNN’s Don Lemon. “What made them tackle my son, not the other boy? What made them so aggressive towards my son, not the other boy? Why is the other boy sitting there, watching my son being humiliated and handcuffed?” “It just doesn’t make sense. And it makes me angry.”
“I felt like they were treating him like he was superior to me,” Kye said of the cops leaving the white teen on the couch while handcuffed.
Kye said the fight started when the other teen was bullying his friend and Kye intervened.
“I keep trying to figure it out and in no possible scenario does it make sense to me,” Ebone said of the cops’ responses. “I want their badges taken away,” she added.
Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, said authorities have not given him any information about why Kye was handcuffed.
“Why is the black child presumed guilty and the white child presumed innocent?” Crump said. “Is the black child put on his stomach with a knee in his back and the white child allowed to sit on the couch and watch being humiliated?”
“It really worries us,” Crump added.
CNN has not been able to speak to the other teen involved or his family.
The authorities investigate the fight and the response of the uniformed
Bridgewater Township Police said in their statement: “Officers were able to respond quickly to this incident and prevent it from escalating due to a tip we received from the community. We have requested that the Somerset County Prosecutor assist us in this matter and We ask for your patience as we strictly adhere to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Internal Affairs Directive.
“We appreciate the videos we have already received from members of the community and ask anyone who has video of this incident to email it to email@example.com. The men and women of the Bridgewater Police Department Township are grateful for our community partners and look forward to continuing to build our positive relationships.”
Gov. Murphy said Wednesday that the incident is “just another reminder of the progress we’ve made in the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve… our job is not done and we need to continue that.”
The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that its Internal Affairs Unit is investigating both the fight and the police response. Bridgewater Mayor Matthew Moench said in a letter to residents that “it is not appropriate that [él] or any other municipal official makes further comment” while the investigation is ongoing, but said he is “completely confident that the prosecutor’s review will be impartial, objective and thorough.”
The New Jersey Attorney General’s office also said in a statement Wednesday that they are working closely with the prosecution on the investigation. “The SPCO will follow the strict guidelines and procedures of the Attorney General’s Office to investigate potential misconduct and ensure transparency and accountability,” a spokesperson said.
CNN’s Kiely Westhoff, Laura Ly, Mirna Alsharif and Tanika Gray contributed to this story.