Viral Video of Officer Punching Woman on N.J. Beach Is Under Investigation: 'You're About to Get Dropped!'
Emily Weinman, 20, is facing multiple charges that began when she was questioned about underage drinking
Police in a New Jersey town are investigating an incident caught on viral video of a police officer punching a woman in the head during a violent confrontation on the beach Saturday.
The incident began when Wildwood police approached 20-year-old Emily Weinman on suspicion of underage drinking, body cam footage released by the department shows. But the incident quickly escalated and just before the violence ensues, an officer tells Weinman, “Alright, you’re about to get dropped!”
The department made the video public after a bystander days earlier posted a video that showed officers tackling and holding Weinman face down in the sand, with an officer on top of her who punched her at least twice as surrounding beachgoers shouted for Weinman to “quit resisting!”
The incident swiftly raised outrage on social media and elsewhere about alleged overzealous policing and brutality. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy responded to descriptions of the video by calling it “pretty darn disturbing,” while Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano said officers were “doing their job” amid a crackdown on drinking at the beach, reports NJ.com.
“She refused to comply,” the mayor said on Monday. “Unfortunately this is what happened.”
Wildwood Police Chief Robert Regalbuto labeled the video “alarming” but cautioned he did “not want to rush to judgment” until an internal investigation is complete, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page.
Weinman, of Philadelphia, was charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer, aggravated assault by spitting bodily fluids at a police officer, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstruction and being a minor in possession of alcohol, police said.
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Stephen Dicht, Weinman’s attorney, said the allegations against her were overblown. “The number of people who think she got what she deserved is appalling,” he said, Philly.com reports.
Weinman defended herself in a Facebook message she sent to a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News and denied an allegation that she spit on the officers, according to the online outlet. “[T]the cops smashed my head into the ground when he tackled me and I spit the sand out of my mouth,” she wrote. “So no, it is not true.”
The body cam video shows the build-up to the altercation.
Officers approached after seeing alcohol on the beach near Weinman, who said she was sitting with her 18-month-old daughter, the daughter’s father and a friend. She told them it belonged to her aunt.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Weinman wrote she had beer with her but was not drinking any and said she submitted to the officers’ request for a Breathalyzer test and it came back negative, Philly.com reports.
An officer made Weinman and the other woman pour out the alcohol and said he would let them go with no citation.
“How are you going to ‘let us go’? We didn’t even drink alcohol,” Weinman responds, before repeatedly refusing to give the officer her name.
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When he asks another officer for handcuffs, she replies, “Don’t cuff me!” prompting the officer’s short pursuit as she moves to leave.
“Alright, you’re about to get dropped!,” he says, before the pair begin to wrestle, with Weinman in the sand and the officer on top of her.
“I cannot breathe!” she says at one point.
During the scuffle, the officer punches her twice.
On Facebook, Weinman wrote: “Yes, i know I should’ve gave him my name. I was partly wrong in a way but I was scared.”
The officers involved, who were not identified, have been reassigned to administrative duty “pending the outcome of a full and thorough investigation,” police said in their statement on Facebook.