A Camden police officer who struck an unarmed man 12 times in the head during an arrest in February won’t be charged, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office announced Thursday.
That decision, though, doesn’t end the inquiry into the arrest of Edward Minguela, 32, on Feb. 22 in the Fairview section of the city.
The Camden County Police Department will now conduct an internal affairs investigation of the arresting officer, Nicholas Romantino, spokesman Dan Keashen said Thursday. Romantino will remain suspended without pay pending that review, Keashen said. Earlier, he described the incident as “disturbing” and not consistent with the department’s policies and training.
Minguela’s lawyer, meanwhile, said the Prosecutor’s Office’s decision was wrong but not surprising.
“As a former police officer, I can state with absolute certainty that the officers used unlawful force against Edward Minguela,” Devon Jacob, a Mechanicsburg, Pa., lawyer and former State College, Pa., police officer, said in a statement Thursday. “Mr. Minguela and I are preparing a federal civil rights lawsuit to address the systemic problems that plague both the Prosecutor’s Office and the police department.”
The arrest drew attention when NBC10 obtained video that showed Minguela, of Camden, with his arms raised and hands empty as officers approached him with guns drawn. Minguela alleged the officers used excessive force.
The officers were at Collings and New Hampshire Roads responding to a 911 call for a man with a gun, the Prosecutor’s Office reported. Minguela fit the description.
The video from a surveillance camera at the Fairview Liquor Store shows uniformed officers approaching Minguela as his hands are raised. Romantino holsters his gun and attempts to pull Minguela’s left arm behind his back to arrest him. Minguela tries to pull away and Romantino tugs Minguela to the ground.
“After Mr. Minguela appears to pull his arm away from the officer’s grasp a second time,” the Prosecutor’s Office statement said, “Officer Romantino struck Mr. Minguela nine times.”
The Prosecutor’s Office said the officer’s body camera recorded him ordering Minguela to put his hands behind his back. In the process of taking Minguela into custody, Romantino punched him three more times.
Minguela did not have possession of a weapon, officials said. He suffered a broken wrist, bruising, and a concussion, he has said.
Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo determined that police conduct did not violate the attorney general’s policy on use of force.
In New Jersey a person does not have the right to resist arrest even if the arrest is unlawful.
Minguela was charged with resisting arrest and obstruction. Those charges had been suspended, but Jacob said the Prosecutor’s Office is going to reactivate them now that its review of the arrest is complete. Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Alexandra McVeigh did not respond to calls to confirm the status of the charges.