New Jersey’s chief law enforcement official on Thursday released police bodycam footage of the arrest of a 64-year-old Trenton man who died 18 days later in the hospital.
Joseph Ahr Sr., 64, was already being restrained by three police officers when a fourth pepper-sprayed him in the face last July 6, video released by state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal shows.
“I can’t breathe,” Ahr says over and again, both before and after the officers got him up and sat him handcuffed on the front steps of his Monmouth Street house following a seconds-long struggle.
They had responded there following a call from Ahr’s son and were speaking with the son when the elder Ahr came to the door, Grewal said.
Both men then began arguing with the officers, he said.
The younger Ahr then went back inside while his father continued the argument on the porch, Grewal said.
“At a certain point, officers tried to detain Mr. Ahr and he pulled away from them,” he said.
“Officers then took Mr. Ahr to the ground, restrained him, and handcuffed him,” Grewal said. “During that encounter, one officer deployed pepper spray.
“While the officers were handcuffing Mr. Ahr, he stated several times that he could not breathe,” the attorney general added. “After he was sitting up, Mr. Ahr complained about other medical issues, and officers summoned emergency medical personnel.”
EMS workers treated Ahr with oxygen before taking him to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton.
He remained there before dying on July 24, the attorney general said.
Grewal released footage from nine body cameras in all on Thursday. He also released the recordings of two 911 calls.
***The video and audio are all posted here: Joseph Ahr Sr. Arrest
Grewal also identified the nine officers at the scene, including Nicholas Piotrowski, who pepper-sprayed Ahr.
Both state law and his own guidelines require Grewal’s office to investigate deaths that occur “during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody.”
A 10-step process by his Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) ensures that the investigation are done “in a full, impartial and transparent manner,” the attorney general said.
Before Thursday’s public release, investigators “discussed the matter with Mr. Ahr’s representative and relatives and provided copies of the recordings to them for their review,” Grewal said.
Once the investigation is complete, the results will be presented to a grand jury — ordinarily consisting of 16 to 23 citizens — which will determine whether or not criminal charges are in order, Grewal said.
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