The FBI has arrested one current Trenton officer and a former member of the city police department following release of an indictment alleging excessive use of force and falsifying police records.
Officer Drew Inman and former officer Anthony Villaneuva face six counts of civil rights violations and obstruction of justice in the arrest of suspect Chanzie Washington in 2017 and Quaree Singletary in 2017.
After running from a routine traffic stop on April 9, 2017, Washington swam across the Delaware & Raritan Canal before he was apprehended on the other side. According to the indictment, Villaneuva and Inman both punched Washington even though he had submitted to the arrest.
Washington “cried out in pain, and told officers, ‘stop hitting me in my face,’ and ‘you’ve got my hands,’ according to the FBI.
The indictment also describes a Nov. 28, 2017, incident in which Villaneuva sprayed Quaree Singletary with mace while the suspect was in custody.
“As the door to Cell 7 closed, and after [Singletary] was secured inside of the cell, defendant Villanueva reached through the bars and sprayed OC spray into Cell 7, while [Singletary] attempted to shield himself with a mattress,” according to the FBI.
Villaneuva was fired from the department last summer following multiple complaints over excessive force. Villaneuva and Inman also face lawsuits related to the assaults.
The federal case relies on body camera and surveillance footage. Attorney Rocco Cipparone, a law professor at Rutgers University and former federal prosecutor, said he’s noticed more federal civil rights cases in New Jersey brought against police departments using video footage.
“The difference in these kind of cases, without videotape, they were purely ‘he said, she said’ cases,” said Cipparone.
But video alone isn’t enough for prosecution, he said. That’s why charges that Inman and Villaneuva falsified records to say the suspects posed a threat and were not injured are important.
“You can see now with the videotape and contrast it with reports that are written or different than what’s depicted in the videotape,” Cipparone said. “They then argue that it shows the guilty state of mind that they had in creating these false police reports.”
Trenton police officials say they are cooperating with the investigation.
Inman and Villaneuva are scheduled to be in federal court Wednesday morning for their arraignments.