Video of an apparently violent arrest on a New Jersey beach over the weekend sparked debate and an investigation after it went viral online. The City of Wildwood Police Department said Saturday that it reassigned all officers involved and launched an internal investigation into the video, which appears to show an officer punching a woman in the head as she's wrestled to the ground.
"An Internal Affairs Investigation was immediately initiated into this matter and the involved officers have been reassigned to administrative duty pending the outcome of a full and thorough investigation," the City of Wildwood Police Department wrote on its Facebook page Sunday.
There are two different versions of events surrounding what led up to the arrest that was captured on video. The woman reportedly admitted to having alcohol on the beach, but claimed she'd passed a breathalyzer test. A city official, however, accused the woman of "aggressively attacking" and "spitting" at the police officers.
Video of the arrest was shared on Twitter by a bystander, who noted the incident happened in Wildwood at 4:11 p.m. local time. "I was sleeping on the beach and I woke up to this," the Twitter user wrote. "I can’t believe it."
According to multiple media reports, the woman in the video, who police identified as 20-year-old Emily Weinman, admitted to having alcohol on the beach but denied drinking it in a Facebook post that has since been taken down. "I had alcohol," Weinman, who said she was with other people on the beach, wrote on Facebook, according to CBS News. "I told them I wasn't drinking and the alcohol was clearly closed."
Weinman claimed police had approached her on suspicion of underage drinking, but that she passed a breathalyzer test and was allowed to walk away before the officers began following her, according to Slate. Weinman reportedly wrote that she then asked the officers if they didn't have "something better to do," which spurred one of the officers to reply that he was now going to "write her up."
Weinman wrote in her Facebook post that she refused tell the officers her name once they threatened to arrest her, Slate reported. She wrote that she tripped as she was backing away from the officers, who then allegedly tackled her. Video of the incident appears to show one officer punching Weinman in the head at least twice before wrapping his arm around her neck in a chokehold. Weinman did not immediately return Bustle's request for a comment.
In the video, Weinman can be heard telling officers, "You're not allowed to hit and choke me like that."
Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. had a different version of events to share. In remarks to The Philadelphia Inquirer, he claimed that Weinman had spit on and "aggressively" attacked officers. "We don’t like to see anyone get hit, period," the mayor told the newspaper. "But then again, when you have someone who's aggressively attacking you or spitting at you… I wasn't there. I don’t know." Troiano Jr. said police planned to release body camera footage recorded during the incident that would show Weinman insulting and spitting on the officers.
According to the City of Wildwood Police Department, Weinman was charged with two counts of aggravated assault on an officer, aggravated assault by spitting bodily fluids at or on an officer, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstruction, and minor in possession of alcohol. The department noted that Chief of Police Robert Regalbuto "finds this video to be alarming" but "does not want to rush to any judgement until having the final results of the investigation." The Wildwood Police Department did not reveal when they expected to have the results of their internal affairs investigation.