The Bordentown Township police officer who for nine months secretly recorded his chief’s allegedly racist rants is Nathan Roohr, a sergeant who’s been with the department for 15 years.
After months of speculation and a federal prosecutor’s refusal to identify the officer, his name was revealed in federal court documents Thursday by the defense lawyer who represents the former longtime chief, Frank Nucera Jr.
Nucera, 61, is charged with hate crimes and accused of spewing the N-word and making racially charged remarks as the township’s chief law enforcement officer. He allegedly slammed the head of a handcuffed African American teenager against a door after officers arrested him for failing to pay a hotel bill in 2016.
Nucera retired from the department in January 2017, one month after Roohr turned over to federal authorities more than 100 hours of recordings he surreptitiously made between April and December 2016.
Prosecutors say Nucera is heard on the tapes saying blacks are “like ISIS” and deserve death by firing squad. “They should line them all up and mow ’em down. I’d like to be on the firing squad, I could do it,” according to the federal indictment of the chief.
Nucera has pleaded not guilty.
Roohr’s decision to make 81 recordings of his boss helped spark the federal investigation that led to the November 2017 charges against Nucera. In New Jersey it is not illegal to secretly record a conversation in which the person taping is taking part.
At a January town hall meeting in Bordentown, several residents said they were outraged at Nucera’s comments and said the officer who made the tapes was a hero. One resident, Dan Preston, pressed town officials to identify the officer so the public could thank him, but the officials told him they were not allowed to discuss the criminal case.
Stanley King, a Woodbury civil rights lawyer who has filed several lawsuits against police departments in South Jersey, said in a previous interview that he, too, was impressed with the officer’s courage and how he ignored the “blue wall of silence.” “Very seldom will they speak out against another officer,” he said.
Roohr did not respond to an email seeking comment. With his dog, Kiru, Roohr is one of four K-9 officers on the 25-member force.
In December a federal judge issued a protective order to prevent either side in Nucera’s criminal case from disclosing any identifying information about the witnesses in the investigation. However, the order included a provision saying the defense could attach materials to support legal motions, which is what Nucera’s lawyer, Rocco Cipparone Jr. did in identifying Roohr.
In the federal indictment, Nucera is accused of ordering officers to bring police dogs to high school basketball games and to apartment buildings with minority residents and to use them to intimidate African Americans.
Cipparone said in court filings that portions of the tape recordings that Roohr surreptitiously made were difficult to hear and were out of order. He also said the officer made them without FBI supervision. “That person intentionally discarded multiple recordings before turning over his self-made recordings to the FBI, stating that he did so because he determined they contained ‘nothing of importance.'”
Cipparone then attached a copy of an FBI report that said Roohr turned over the recordings in January 2017 and told agents he had “deleted additional audio recordings” that were not relevant.
In his filing, Cipparone suggested the deletions were improper. He said all of the tapes should have been preserved so that the full context of the remarks could be understood and a determination made as to “whether a crime was committed.” He also requested that the judge extend the Monday deadline that had been set for filing motions to give him time to further review the tapes and transcripts.
“I’m still in the process of evaluating the very voluminous discovery,” he said.
Matt Reilly, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, declined comment on the case.