Jury Finds Cops Not Responsible In K9-related Death Of N.J. Man

Earlier last week, a federal jury ruled in favor of the city and police department in a $10 million case filed by the family of a Vineland man who died in 2015 after being attacked by police and bitten by a police dog.

In March 2015, Phillip White, a man who had been reported to police for acting strangely, died while in police custody. When questioned by police, White admitted he had PCP in his system. A viral video shows White ordering a police K9 to bite him while an officer sits on his back.

Jury Finds Cops Not Responsible In K9-related Death Of N.j. Man
Jury Finds Cops Not Responsible In K9-related Death Of N.j. Man

His family sued the city of Vineland and the police department in federal court in 2016, claiming that White was subjected to excessive force and that his civil rights had been violated. The action originally included two cops, Louis Platania and Rich Janasiak, but Janasiak was eventually removed.

According to federal court documents, a Camden, New Jersey, jury found in favor of the city on October 19.

Attorney Michael Galpern, who represented Pamela White, stated, “We believe very strongly in our client and client’s cause, but the jury didn’t view it that way.”

Galpern stated that his team was considering appealing the ruling. Vineland and its police department’s attorney declined to comment.

The lawsuit also claimed Vineland police had ignored prior accusations of excessive force and that internal investigations into the officers’ conduct “consisted of interviews only of the officers, but not of civilian witnesses.”

Several onlookers recorded White’s arrest and yelled at the police that he was not resisting, and the video went viral at a time when protests over police killings of Black males were receiving attention around the country.

A onlooker can be heard saying in one of the films, “Get that dog off of him.” Saying, “He’s out cold. He hasn’t made a single move.

Although White was on his way to the hospital, he tragically passed away en route. His death was officially ruled a case of respiratory distress at the time.

In the end, the cyber group Anonymous revealed the identity of the cops involved in the arrest before the authorities did. In June of 2016, a grand jury found the cops not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing.

Galpern said that jurors “never got to assess the long line of excessive force complaints against Vineland police officers” and the department’s alleged failure to investigate them properly because of restrictions on the material they could introduce.

According to information supplied by the city to the state Attorney General’s Office, in both 2020 and 2021, only one city police officer was subject to any form of significant disciplinary (defined as misconduct resulting in a suspension of five days or more).

Local citizen Jose L. Paz Jr. is suing the Vineland police department in New Jersey Superior Court, claiming that he was also wrongfully beaten by cops and bitten by a police dog in 2018. The court records reflect that the matter is still being heard.

 

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