Middlesex County News

Highland Park Residents Seeking Answer Following Footage of Fatal Struggle with Edison Man

c1f96e2bcaa0651e27c5_IMG_6904.JPG
Protesters held up signs on the busy Highland Park thoroughfare on the evening of Friday, December 22. Credits: Daniel J. Munoz
c1f96e2bcaa0651e27c5_IMG_6904.JPG

HIGHLAND PARK, NJ - Local activists are pushing for an independent investigation into the death of an Edison resident who died following a scuffle with Highland Park police in June 2016.

Daniel Nagahama, 28 of Edison, died in Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick hours after the incident.

Police accounts of the incident have recently come under scrutiny by local residents.

Sign Up for E-News

The prosecutor’s office indicated in a June 2016 statement that Nagahama hadn’t been arrested, only for that to be seemingly contradicted by use of force reports made public in early December, indicating that an arrest was made.

“I think that the prosecutor’s statements, initially about what happened, from I’ve seen in the video, from what I’ve read about police reports, that it was misleading to the public, and that’s really troubling,” said Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, a local Highland Park resident.

During rush hour on the evening of Friday, December 22, Weill-Greenberg was one of about a dozen residents who protested and held signs along the busy intersection of Raritan Avenue and South Adelaide Street in Highland Park.

For many of those who attended, their interest has also been renewed in Nagahama’s death largely due to the release of dashcam footage from different police cars of the incident.

“I do think you could have an independent investigation that would at least take a look at how he was treated, and take a look at the whole process, all the way through into the hospital,” said another protester, Highland Park resident Ellen Whitt.

Dashcam footage shows Nagahama struggling with police officers and screaming at them during a 13 minute interaction.

Nagahama is pinned to the police car, handcuffed, strapped to a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance, according to footage.

County prosecutor Andrew Carey said that Nagahama wasn’t arrested; instead he was placed in handcuffs for his own protection and that of the officers, with the arrest reports being written only in anticipation of a potential disorderly persons offense.

For Whitt though, there seems to have been a missing piece between Nagahama’s struggle with police and his death several hours later.

“I was quite struck by the original story from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, that he was being revived when he became belligerent, and as a result there was an altercation. But that wasn't actually true, you could see the video, that was not the case at all,” Whitt said.

Nagahama’s death had been ruled as stemming from “natural causes,” according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, that is, “morbid obesity with cardiomegaly and left ventricle hypertrophy.”

Authorities initially didn’t release the UFRs filed by the four Highland Park police officers involved in the incident.

The Libertarians for Transparent Government ended up filing a lawsuit against the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office to make the reports public.

Weill-Greenberg said she would hopes for some kind of independent investigation, be it from an outside prosecutor or the state attorney general’s office.

“You need someone outside of a small town or a city or local politics, to come in and help figure out what happened and help figure out how make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Weill-Greenberg said.

The four officers had been cleared of wrongdoing after the case was referred to the county prosecutor’s.

Nagahama’s death and the preceding police struggle were reported to the state attorney general’s office in accordance with use-of-force guidelines, according to the county prosecutor.

“The investigation’s run its’ course,” said Highland Park Chief of Police Stephen Rizco. “Our process is to call the prosecutor’s office, they report to the attorney general’s office. That’s the way it’s set up in New Jersey.”

Norman Travis, a Highland Park resident who’s work in the mental health field for several decades, said there were many things the officers during the incident could have done differently.

He’s spent decades working in the mental health field, including 31 years at a nearby mental health center on the Rutgers University campus in Piscataway.

“You have to be able to handle things like being spat in the face by a kid that you worked with and invested a lot of energy and thought you had a pretty good relationship with,” Travis said. “I can’t imagine there was ever training to do that.”

Travis added: “These things get very, very emotional,” with kids who can quickly get very aggressive.

But Highland Park police officers go through a whole range of trainings on topics of mental health, according to Rizco, such as acute psychiatric training and dealing with persons on the autism spectrum disorder.  

Police officers in New Jersey are required to undergo Community-Law Enforcement Affirmative Relations (CLEAR) training, which tries to incorporate mental health and bias incidents.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Piscataway

TapInto Welcomes Letters to the Editor, Guidelines for Submission Listed

PISCATAWAY, NJ - Letters to the Editor are a time-honored tradition in the newspaper industry and now that so much of news has moved online, the letters explaining a personal point of view have moved with it.

While many of our letters come during election time, TapInto invites letters year round. The main rules are to include a full name, phone number, email and snail mail address. TapInto ...

To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 17, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

New Brunswick Battles Hunger with Largest Food Pantry Network in County

July 17, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The Rev. Douglas Shepler became pastor of New Brunswick's Second Reformed in April 2008 and by October had a food pantry running that quickly attracted people in need, including Rutgers University students.

“We had graduate students coming to us and they had a choice of paying their rent or paying for food,” Shepler said. However, those students ...

Obituaries

Hillsborough, NJ - Gina (Francoisa) Salamon, 90, died Monday, July 9, 2018 at Bridgeway Care Center ...
Read more
Piscataway – Michael John Doherty, 73, passed away Saturday June 16, 2018 in Las Vegas, ...
Read more

New Outlook Pioneers hosts 18th Music in the Park at Milt Campbell Field

July 15, 2018

Plainfield, NJ - On Thursday, August 2, 2018 at 5PM Sponsored by: The City of Plainfield (including the Cultural & Heritage and Human Relations Commissions), Mayor Adrian Mapp and the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders; along with CO-SPONSORS: New Outlook Pioneers, Mr. Plainfield (Robert Graham),TD+Partners -A Community Impact Development Firm, and Re/Max Select, Sandra L.

Cruising with Autism on the Seas

This is a event that includes the partnership and collaboration of Cruise Planners, Autism Friendly Escapes and WallynZavy's Autistic Kids Can Do!. WallynZavy's Autistic Kids Can Do is a non-profit 5013c, organization that supports families that have autistic and special needs children through advocacy, social play dates, resources, workshops, community support, seminars and family ...

Piscataway Library Accepting Diaper Donations Now Through July 31st

The Piscataway Public Library is helping the Central Jersey Diaper Bank collect diaper donations through the month of July. 

New or open packs of disposable baby diapers (all sizes) and wipes are needed.

Look for the blue bins at either Kennedy or Westergard to donate!

Rutgers Hikes Tuition, Student Fees for 2018-2019 Academic Year

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Rutgers University Board of Governors today approved a 2.3 percent hike in tuition and fees, as well as increases for dorm rooms and meals, for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The increase now brings the annual cost for undergraduate students to $14,975, which is $337 more than this past school year.

Student housing will increase 1.9 percent, and ...

Upcoming Events

Sat, July 21, 10:00 AM

NJ Convention and Exposition Center, Edison

82nd Annual Garden State Cat Show & Expo

Giving Back Other

Sun, July 22, 10:00 AM

NJ Convention and Exposition Center, Edison

82nd Annual Garden State Cat Show & Expo

Giving Back Other

Sun, July 22, 11:00 AM

Columbia Park Senior Center, Dunellen

Bus Trip to SOPAC's Hunchback of Notre Dame ...

Arts & Entertainment

Mon, July 23, 10:00 AM

NJ Convention and Exposition Center, Edison

82nd Annual Garden State Cat Show & Expo

Giving Back Other

Wed, July 25, 7:00 PM

Washington Park, Dunellen

Free Music in the Park | Princesa - Pop / Latin

Arts & Entertainment

Residents Taking Action Against White Supremacist Fliers Found Around Bridgewater, Bedminster, Other Local Areas

July 17, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Residents of Bridgewater, Somerville, Morristown and surrounding communities are mobilizing for action after they found posters around town promoting Identity Evropa, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has labeled a white supremacist group.

According to Bridgewater resident Stacey Friedlander, a member of the “Not In Our Town – Bridgewater/Raritan” ...

Big Changes in Store for New Jersey’s Employers and Employees

July 15, 2018

Big changes are in store for New Jersey’s workplaces, with dramatic legislation aimed at improving conditions for New Jersey’s workers. These changes include the enactment of New Jersey’s Equal Pay Act, a new law to help the unemployed, and passage of New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave Act. Most likely one or all these laws will impact you or someone in your family.

New ...

Would Shedding

How much wood wouldn’t a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck woodn’t?

 

Enough already.  

 

I get it.  It is an easy mistake to make, misusing would and wouldn’t.  It happens to me all the time.

 

“Honey, when I said I didn’t see any reason why I would go to the ballet, I meant to say I couldn’t see ...