NEWARK, NJ — A civil lawsuit filed in September against the City of Newark and the police department alleges that a police captain harassed, assaulted and wrongfully arrested an elderly man while working for Anthony Campos’ 2018 campaign for East Ward councilman.
Court documents claim Captain Aurelio Silva, who is currently listed as a lieutenant on the Newark Police Department’s website, confronted Fernando Mendes, 80, on Election Day 2018 regarding campaign literature Mendes was holding for Campos’ opponent, Augusto Amador.
Later that day, after the argument was thought to be resolved, Mendes was picking up litter on the sidewalk on Van Buren Street when Silva, apparently convinced that Mendes was stealing Campos’ campaign literature, began following and shouting at Mendes.
“You’re a thief and you’re going to jail,” Silva screamed, according to the documents.
Campos, whose bid to represent the East Ward was unsuccessful, is a former Newark police chief, public safety director and police director who retired from a 30-year career in 2016.
“Although politics should not be involved in the police department, you have to still be an active participant in public safety, as opposed to what we have currently have, which at best is a passive spectator,” Campos said in 2018.
Silva, who was dressed in plain clothes and wearing nothing to identify himself as police, continued to follow Mendes all the way home and record him with a cell phone close to his face. When Mendes attempted to enter his house, Silva allegedly attacked Mendes from behind and dragged him to the ground, causing Mendes to suffer a head injury.
The police captain continued striking and kicking Mendes and pulled out the litter from Mendes ’pockets, realizing that it was not Campos’ campaign literature as he believed. Mendes’ neighbors witnessed the alleged attack and came to Mendes’ aid under the impression he was being mugged.
Silva pulled out his Newark Police Department badge for the first time and ordered Mendes’ neighbors to go home.
“In response to his altercation with the unarmed 80-year-old plaintiff, defendant Silva then proceeded to call the Newark Police Department communications sergeant requesting a precinct wide ‘officer in need of assistance’ call, in response to which multiple Newark Police Department Officers arrived to detain the plaintiff,” the lawsuit says.
Officers who came to assist Silva subsequently released Mendes at the scene, who is the father of Det. Roger Medes, a 17-year veteran of NPD. Mendes was taken to St. Michael’s Medical Center and treated for injuries sustained during the altercation with Silva.
Silva continued to maintain that Mendes had committed a crime, leading to Mendes’ prosecution. The lawsuit claims Silva also attempted to assert fabrications and intimidate NPD personnel in an effort to thwart an Internal Affairs investigation.
All criminal action against Mendes was resolved in Mendes’ favor, but NPD failed to discipline Silva, documents claim. Mendes is demanding a trial by jury for damages and costs incurred during his criminal prosecution, as well as other relief.
Corporation counsel for the city of Newark, Anthony Campos and the Newark Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.