Police: NJ officers surrounded, assaulted while breaking up fight

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Monday, May 8, 2017
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Officer assaulted in Paulsboro, NJ: Tamala Edwards reports during Action News at 5 a.m. on May 8, 2017.

PAULSBORO, N.J. (WPVI) -- Police officers responding to a fight in Gloucester County were surrounded and assaulted while attempting to arrest those involved, according to the Paulsboro Police Department.

The incident occurred around 6 p.m. Saturday in Paulsboro around the area of Adams and Delaware and surrounding blocks.

The office of the chief of police released a statement Sunday.

"Officers were quickly surrounded and assaulted by a very large crowd while attempting to arrest those involved," the statement read.

Officials say police from neighboring towns responded to the Paulsboro officers' request for assistance.

They say most involved in the assault were young adults and children.

Paulsboro Police Chief Vernon Marino says two people were arrested, and there are more arrests to come.

"Our whole department is equipped with body worn cameras. The whole incident captured everyone who was involved," said Chief Marino.

Two Paulsboro officers on duty responded and one officer was struck.

"While she was making that arrest, a crowd formed and they were trying to take the female from her. While they were trying to take the female, the officer was punched in the face," said Chief Marino.

Frank Hardy says his granddaughter was one of the two arrested by police.

"She hit the officer by accident, not purposefully going after the other girl," he said.

Hardy says two women attacked his granddaughters and that led to the fight.

Hardy says he worked to disperse the crowd.

Later a cell phone video caught another disturbance around the same area.

Chief Marino says in the earlier fight his officers used restraint, even after one was hit and another had their body camera ripped off them.

He said, "Our concern is things could've went from bad to worse quickly when you have that many people, you don't know if there are weapons involved, what their intentions are."

"Fortunately, with the aid of the body worn cameras, our officers will now have the ability to identify those who were fighting and those that failed to disperse when ordered to do so. There were additional disturbances throughout the evening, however our officers were able to quickly arrest those involved and calm those that gathered to watch," the statement read.

In the statement, Chief Vernon Marino asks parents to speak to their children about events like these and how they are harmful to each other and the neighborhood.

In regards to viral videos of fights being posted on social media, Marino says, "While it's your right to videotape and place on social media people at their worse or the ugliness of fights, it's these same videos that continue to stereotype a town and its residents. It is simply irresponsible to post these incidents; doing so only helps to drive copycats wanting their 3 seconds of air time while eroding the core values of this town and its hard working, law [abiding] citizens. Our stakeholders (residents, council, churches, schools, businesses) have a strong, respectful relationship with this police department and we will continue that partnership as we combat crime and those set out to do harm to our police officers and this town. (Paulsboro Pride)."

Chief Marino says in the past they've been able to work with community groups and local churches to ease tensions. They are making plans to do that soon.


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