Police in Wildwood, N.J., are investigating a viral video that shows an officer punching a woman’s head at least twice on the beach before wrestling her into the sand over Memorial Day weekend.
In the video, two officers are seen trying to subdue a woman, whom police have identified as Emily Weinman, a 20-year-old from Philadelphia. One of the officers punches Weinman’s head at least twice, and she screams and flails as the other officer tries to pin her legs to the sand.
Several beachgoers crowd around and can be heard repeatedly warning Weinman to “stop resisting.”
She is heard shouting, again and again: “You’re not allowed to hit me and choke me like that.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” she cries.
Wildwood Police Chief Robert Regalbuto called the video “alarming,” though the Jersey Shore city’s mayor, Ernie Troiano Jr., defended the officers before seeing the body-camera footage, telling NJ.com on Monday that “the police were doing their job.”
On Tuesday, Troiano again defended the police, telling Philly.com that Weinman was “by far the aggressor here” and that women are typically harder to subdue than men.
“I worked as a doorman, a bouncer,” said Troiano, who told Philly.com that his father owned a nightclub. “They can be hard to control. They’re kicking, they don’t care.”
“Everybody’s trying to paint this young lady as an upstanding model citizen,” he said. “She’s on probation for four years. She chose to attack the officer, spit on the officer. Look I don’t care who you are and what you are, the worst people [to try to subdue] are women.”
Weinman’s lawyer, Stephen Dicht, said the mayor’s comments were “irresponsible,” and accused police of exaggerating the charges.
“The number of people who think she got what she deserved is appalling,” Dicht said.
Weinman also denied spitting on the officer in a message to Philly.com, saying she was spitting sand out of her mouth because her head had been smashed into the ground.
Alexis Hewitt, a beachgoer who recorded the incident and posted the video to Twitter on Saturday, wrote that she woman was “sleeping on the beach” and “woke up to this.” The video spread quickly and was shared more than 45,000 times.
“When she fell, that’s basically when it caught my eye because everyone was yelling and I woke up, and I got my camera out right when she went down,” Hewitt told Philadelphia ABC affiliate WPVI.
Weinman was approached by the officers Saturday afternoon because she had alcohol on one of the city’s beaches and was suspected to be underage, according to NJ.com, which cited a Facebook post by Weinman that has since been removed from public view. In the post, Weinman wrote that she had passed a breathalyzer test and had walked away from the officers, who came after her. She then asked them whether they didn’t have “something better to do” than stop suspected underage drinkers, NJ.com reported.
She refused to give the officers her name and began walking away, she wrote. That’s when an officer tackled her, NJ.com reported.
Weinman was charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer, aggravated assault by spitting on an officer, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstruction and possessing alcohol as a minor, police said in a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday evening. Weinman made no mention of the criminal charges in her Facebook post, according to NJ.com.
She could not be immediately reached for comment by The Washington Post on Monday.
The officers involved in Weinman’s arrest have been reassigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of a “full and thorough” investigation, police said. Troiano, the mayor, told Philly.com Tuesday that they were Class II officers hired for the summer season.
The Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that it will assist in the investigation, and that the police video will be released to the public once it is complete.
Although Regalbuto, the chief, found the video to be alarming, police said in the statement that he does “not want to rush to any judgment until having the final results of the investigation.”
The incident shocked many on social media, including social activist Shaun King, who recently brought attention to the New York lawyer who made xenophobic comments about Spanish-speaking employees at a deli.
“This happened after officer’s confronted the young mother over having an open container of beer on the beach,” King wrote in a tweet. “That is literally her baby being rescued from the melee as police begin beating the life out of her — punching her repeatedly in the face.”
The Post could not immediately confirm whether the child King referred to is Weinman’s.