Law & Justice

Maplewood Teen Sues Police Claiming Post-Fireworks Mistreatment, Racial Slurs

4b18828fd4ba95966192_lawsuit.jpg
4b18828fd4ba95966192_lawsuit.jpg

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - A Maplewood teen claiming he was wrongly pepper sprayed, physically abused and discriminated against by police following the 2016 fireworks has filed a federal lawsuit against the Township and former Police Chief Robert Cimino seeking damages for actions that allegedly included punching, kicking and the use of racial slurs.

Jason McDougall, now 18, was 16 years old the night of July 5, 2016, when he was among many African-American teens leaving Memorial Park after the festivities and ended up in scuffles with police.

The lawsuit filed September 8, by McDougall’s mother, Cynthia, on his behalf, alleges the teen was unfairly targeted by up to eight police officers and wrongly abused.

Sign Up for E-News

The suit states, in part:

At some point … Cimino determined that he was going to direct his officers to send black children who were leaving the fireworks display in mass, out of the town of Maplewood and into neighboring Irvington. He told his subordinate officers to ‘send them east’ toward Irvington … It was the clear intent of the Maplewood Police Department to herd the youths out of Maplewood and into Irvington without regard for their right to return to their homes and without regard for their safety. At no time did officers attempt to determine if any of the children lived in Maplewood nor did they make provisions for those who did.

The lawsuit specifies that McDougall was walking along Elmwood Avenue at one point seeking to go to his home on Troy Court, but police would not let him. It claims police “told him to get on the sidewalk and walk up Elmwood Avenue” and when he “tried to explain to the police officer that he lived” in another direction, one officer allegedly said, “get your nigger ass on the sidewalk.” 

The lawsuit alleges that McDougall then went toward a commotion at Elmwood and Boyden avenues, but did not get involved.

However, the complaint claims that he was attacked by police anyway, stating:

Suddenly and without warning, another police officer ran toward (McDougall) and struck him forcefully in the chest causing him to fall backward. As he fell to the ground, he was immediately surrounded by at least eight police officers. He was kicked repeatedly by the police officers and sprayed with a chemical capsicum type spray directly in his eyes, nose, mouth and ears.

The lawsuit claims police then used other slurs and profanity, allegedly stating: ”what now bitch?” and “get the fuck out of here.” McDougall also alleges he was denied water to help sooth his eyes and mouth from the pepper spray.

As he sought to walk further up the street, the lawsuit claims, police allegedly knocked McDougall down again, slammed his face into the ground and punched him once more.

The lawsuit names as defendants Cimino, former captain Joshua Cummis and three individual police officers. It seeks unspecified damages and legal fees.

Township officials declined to comment on the suit Wednesday, noting they had not yet been served. But a clerk at the Federal District Court in Newark confirmed the 30-page suit had been filed September 8.

Robert Tarver, attorney for the McDougalls, had initially announced plans for the suit in August.

He said this week that the video and audio of that night’s events, which were released several months ago, show clear evidence of wrongdoing against his client and others.

“The unique aspect of this case is that the wrongdoing is there indisputably for everyone to see and hear,” Tarver said Wednesday by phone. “The language and behavior are based upon race.”

The McDougall lawsuit is the latest Maplewood trouble related to the July 5, 2016 police misbehavior, which has already led to the ouster of Cimino, a lawsuit from Cummis claiming wrongful termination, and a report from an independent consultant stating police acted improperly and more training for such incidents is needed.

Hillard Heintze, the Chicago firm hired as part of the Township’s response to demands by many in the community that Cimino be dismissed in the wake of improper police abuse, released its report last week that found 11 “key findings” of police response problems that night. 

Some of the strongest objections from residents involved the police “herding” many youngsters toward the Irvington city line, including many who live in Maplewood.

Video and audio of those incidents, which followed that night’s fireworks display, were made public in late July 2017 after months of demands for them to be released.

The same week, the police also announced that six officers had been disciplined for their actions that night, including one who was suspended for 20 days. It is unclear if any of them were among those cited in McDougall’s lawsuit since their identities have not been revealed by police.

On Aug. 1, 2017, the Township Committee (TC) called for Cimino to resign, held a unanimous vote of no confidence in him, and placed him and former police captain Joshua Cummis on paid leave.

The same night the TC appointed Acting Capt. Jimmy DeVaul as the new acting police chief, along with Lieutenant Albert Sally as a new acting captain.

Cummis has since retired and the Township this week approved an agreement with Cimino for him to remain on paid leave until the end of 2017 and then receive payments of nearly $280,000 during the next year.

Cummis, meanwhile, has filed his own lawsuit seeking damages for alleged wrongful termination.

Township officials announced last month that they would begin a national search for a new police chief.

Related articles

Maplewood Township Committee Passes Resolution Finalizing Settlement with Police Chief

Consultant’s Report Finds “Inappropriate Tactics” During Post-Fireworks Police Response; Chief Cited For “Counterproductive Effort”

Suspended Maplewood Police Captain’s Lawsuit Claims No Due Process

New Acting Chief and Acting Captain of Maplewood Police Department

Amidst Protests, Maplewood Officials Call for Immediate Resignation of Police Chief

6 Maplewood Police Officers Disciplined for July 5, 2016 Incidents

Maplewood Police Release Reports from July 5, 2016: Unruly Crowds, Pepper Spray Use, Attacks on Police

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

SOMA

A Tale of Two Very Different Town Administrator Searches

Both Maplewood and South Orange are looking for new town administrators at the same time, a rare occurrence.

And their approaches couldn’t be any more different.

Maplewood, whose long-time administrator Joseph Manning is retiring May 31, launched its search last month the old-fashioned way: hiring a recruiting firm and letting them do the heavy lifting (or more appropriately the ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 12

On this week’s episode of AtlantiCast, decade of excellence makes headlines, as Atlantic Health’s place on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List leads off the newest episode of AtlantiCast. Also on this week’s show, check out the newest “hybrid” operating room at Morristown Medical Center and find out how Atlantic Health is helping local ...

AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M7euCp86-c

Maplewood Police Blotter - Two Teens Arrested for Theft from Auto

February 20, 2018

February 12 - Theft; A resident from Burroughs Way reported that sometime over the past day, a snow blower was stolen from an open garage.

February 17- Theft from Auto; At approximately 5:15 p.m., two males were observed going through vehicles on Hillcrest Rd.  Officers responded to the area and were able to locate two males fitting the description. The males, 18 year ...

South Orange Police Blotter - Two Arrested for Robbery in South Orange

Adult Arrest - Robbery - Shawn Ray Newsome, a 20 year old Newark resident and a 17 year old juvenile were arrested on Saturday, Feb. 3, at approximately 10:45 p.m. for robbery. Two male victims reported that as they were walking on South Orange Ave near the Newark border, they were approached by three actors (described as black males wearing dark clothing and black masks) who ...

Blood Drives in SOMA: Maplewood on Feb. 22 and South Orange on Feb. 26

February 19, 2018

SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Due to winter storms and flu disrupting blood donations, the Red Cross is urging donors to donate and help maintain blood supply, according to a press release from the organization.

In January, severe winter weather forced about 600 blood drives to cancel, resulting in more than 17,500 uncollected blood and platelet donations. And, ...

Maplewood Seniors Enjoy a Visit from Alfalfa the Alpaca on Valentine's Day

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - If you were at the Maplewood Senior Center on Wednesday - which happened to be Valentine's Day - you would have seen the somewhat unusual sight of an alpaca. Alfalfa the Alpaca to be precise.

 

The visit from Alfalfa was the first in the "creature comfort" series from the Maplewood Recreation Department.

 

Maplewood Recreation Director Melissa ...

Upcoming Events

Fri, February 23, 12:00 PM

St. Andrew & Holy Communion Parish Hall, South Orange

Lenten Friday Fish Fry Dinners

Food & Drink

Carousel_image_982bc8344531b1a37c85_par_440

Fri, February 23, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Carousel_image_af1b89eae735bf536426_par440_promo

Fri, February 23, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Carousel_image_337d02082fcbf48f3beb_mms_presents_r_h_cinderella

Fri, February 23, 7:30 PM

Maplewood Middle School Auditorium, Maplewood

Maplewood Middle School Presents Rogers & ...

Arts & Entertainment Education

School Walkout Efforts Reach West Orange High School

February 22, 2018

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Hundreds of West Orange High School (WOHS) students participated in a peaceful walkout Wednesday afternoon in support of their fellow classmates in South Florida, where a gunman killed 17 people last week.

“They want to see change [in gun control],” said WOHS Principal Hayden Moore, who was present during the impromptu student-organized walkout.

Indictment Handed Down in Millburn Carjacking

TRENTON, NJ – An indictment was handed down in the November carjacking in Millburn where a 13-year old girl was allegedly grabbed by the neck and the suspect threatened to kill her. 

The 11-count state grand jury indictment charges Ahmed Anthony, 30, of Newark with conspiracy, carjacking, robbery and making terroristic threats among other charges. The conspiracy in the first-degree ...

Protesters Gather in Westfield to Demand Gun Control After Parkland Shooting

February 23, 2018

WESTFIELD, NJ — Protesters gathered outside of Rep. Leonard Lance’s Westfield office Wednesday to rally for gun law reform and to hold a vigil after the recent Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

The Westfield Activist group Westfield 20/20 organizes weekly protests outside of Congressman Lance’s office but, to many, this protest felt different. Attendees included ...

Shouts of Racial Slurs Bring Police to Sparta Theatre

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta police were called to the New Vision Sparta Theater on Sunday night because of a woman shouting slurs in a screening of Black Panther.

Former New Jersey Assembly candidate Michael Grace was in the theater when two people started yelling racial slurs including “look at these ‘n-word’” and “can you believe these ...

Free Cardiac and Concussion Screenings for Young Athletes

February 23, 2018

The Matthew J. Morahan III Health Assessment Center for Athletes (MJM) at RWJBarnabas Health will provide free cardiac and concussion baseline screenings to young athletes on Saturday, March 3, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at South Mountain Recreation Complex, Codey Arena, 560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange, NJ.

When preliminary testing to identify serious cardiac problems is provided to ...

Parkland Moms Club Seeks Cards for Teachers and First Responders

In less then 24 hours, the Parkland Moms Club put a card making event together at the park next to the amphitheater which has turned into a massive memorial. Kids from infants to 5th graders helped create cards for teachers, first responders, and hospital workers. Paulina Splechta donated her amazing photography skills and sent us tons and tons of pictures. No matter your age, there is a way ...

Lightbridge Academy in Millburn Hiring Assistant and Lead Teachers

If you are passionate about educating and nurturing young minds, you may fit right in with our family! Lightbridge Academy is currently hiring Assistant and Lead Teachers to join our team and grow with us!

If you would like to learn more about the positions offered, you can reach us at 973-218-1800.