[the Freddie Gray Defense - ‘We Were Just Trying to Help’] From [HERE] Xavier Ingram ran from the cops on June 12, 2014, and his life changed forever.
As the 20-year-old walked out of a store in Camden, he spotted the cops coming for him and took off.
Moments later, he slipped and fell. Ingram would say later that two officers were on top of him immediately, kneeling on his neck and back, punching him as he screamed that he couldn’t feel his legs. Then a third cop approached.
“He said, ‘Shut up.’ Then, Ingram said in a court deposition a year later, that the officer stepped on his neck.
Ingram said, "I heard it crack,"
Ingram, now 25, will live the rest of his life in a hospital bed at a rehabilitation facility, unable to move anything below his neck. He eats and breathes through tubes surgically implanted in his body.
Camden County police dispute almost everything in Ingram’s version of events, saying the injuries occurred when he fell. “An accident of his own accord” was how Police Chief J. Scott Thomson put it in a statement a day later. The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office later concluded the same: the officers did nothing wrong.
The issue for who was to blame that night — Ingram, for his decision to flee from police, or the officers, whom one witness described as “whooping his ass” as he lay on the ground — will ultimately be decided in federal court. Either way, a young man’s life will never be the same.
Also at issue is the reputation of the Camden County Police Department, which has been working to reinvent itself and win over wary residents since it replaced the city force in 2013.
The civil rights suit Ingram filed in 2014 has been getting stronger as he lies in bed. Doctors hired by his attorneys have opined that his injuries are consistent with excessive force by police.
But the officers also have experts who swear that medical evidence proves Ingram hurt himself when he fell. If the case goes to trial, jurors will have to decide who to believe.
The chase in Ingram’s neighborhood began after police believed he hid a gun under a parked car to avoid being caught with it — something he denies. The only video footage of the fall and arrest is from a distant surveillance camera, blurry enough for both sides to interpret the footage to their benefit.
Details about the case and the warring expert opinions were revealed in hundreds of pages of depositions and reports filed in the case in U.S. District Court.
While Ingram’s federal suit is at least inching forward, his criminal case is stalled. His medical issues mean getting him into the courtroom for a trial will be at best, extremely costly, and at worst, “almost impossible,” according to his criminal attorney, Robert Dunn of Morristown.
“He’s a quadriplegic in a nursing home and right now there’s no chance of him ever improving,” Dunn said. “Unless there’s a medical breakthrough.”
Judges have pressed the prosecutor’s office to decide if it is really practical to try Ingram, given what it might cost the county to get him into court, but for now the case is in limbo.
If prosecutors did drop the charges, that could weaken the county’s defense against the civil suit.
On behalf of the Camden County Police Department, spokesman Dan Keashen said Ingram’s claims are completely fabricated.
“The facts in this case are clear and transparent, Xavier Ingram’s individual actions created his injury and the circumstances surrounding the incident were self-manufactured through his activity on the night of June 12, 2014,” Keashen said. “The evidence has not changed since the original incident and the video from that night, showing the interaction with officers, still stands as uncontested and definitive.”
Attorneys for Ingram at the Roseland firm of Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman declined to be interviewed for this story, or to make Ingram available for an interview.
Ingram was raised mostly by his grandmother, after his mother died when he was 4 years old. He dropped out of Camden High School as a junior. He had four children by the time he was 20.
Depositions from Ingram and his relatives describe him as more interested in playing video games — four or five hours a day — than getting into trouble.
But the Camden County police don’t buy that. They believe he was a drug dealer from a young age, prowling the streets of Camden with a stolen handgun in his waistband, according to court filings. Police said they found four bags of heroin and $300 cash in his pockets the night of his arrest and injury.
Ingram lived with his grandmother and aunt in Sycamore Court apartments in the city’s Bergen Square neighborhood. Together, Sycamore Court and next-door Chestnut Court are known as a drug hustling hotspot. That’s why three officers on patrol decided to walk through the area around 9:40 p.m. the night Ingram was arrested.
Sgt. Jeremy Merck, 32, (use-of-force records in Evesham and Camden) testified in his deposition that he was doing a “complex sweep” that night with two other officers. Nicholas Marchiafava, 25, (use-of-force record) and Antonio Gennetta, 31, (use-of-force record) were 11 and six months out of the police academy, respectively.
They witnessed a group of men “huddled together” [can’t do that if you’re Black - that’s bad] in the courtyard of Chestnut Court, Merck said, but the group disbanded as officers approached. The officers testified that they saw Ingram, whom he knew, reach toward his waistband as though he had a gun hidden there.
Surveillance video shows that as Ingram walked away, he briefly stooped down between parked cars. He later said he was hiding because he had traffic warrants. Merck said he heard a sound and believed Ingram dropped a gun between the cars.
Ingram walked out of the courtyard with his hands in the air. Merck testified that he found a gun under a car and ordered Marchiafava to arrest Ingram, who was inside a nearby store.
Ingram came out, saw Marchiafava and started running. The surveillance video of the brief chase is very dark, but it shows Ingram fall, with his feet out in front of him.
The police department — and its experts — say Ingram fell flat on his back, and the fall broke his neck. His story is very different.
Ingram said he fell on his side and that when Gennetta and Marchiafava caught up, one put a knee on his neck while the other kneeled on his back. They punched and kneed him, he said. Ingram said Merck ran up and, moments later, stepped on his neck.
“I never felt this pain before. It was hurting bad. Two, three seconds later, I blacked out,” he said in his deposition.
Marchiafava and Gennetta testified that they put knees on his back, not his neck, and the only use of force they officially reported were compliance holds. Merck has denied using any force.
This was before Camden cops had body cameras, so the only video of the incident is from one of department’s “eye in the sky” cameras, operated by staff at the police station. The quality of the video is poor, other than a 10-second span when the camera operator zooms in to the scene, but then zooms out again.
It shows the two officers crouching and moving over Ingram’s body, and Merck running up to join them. Experts for the police officers’ side say the video proves he wasn’t punched, kicked, or stomped on, but Ingram’s experts say it shows the two officers kneeling near his neck and upper torso and shows Merck moving in the area of Ingram’s neck.
The video, in a gif below, also show the officers roll and lift him to a sitting position despite him saying he couldn't feel his legs. When Gennetta let go of his upper body, Ingram tipped forward onto the ground.
Gennetta testified that this was the point where they called an ambulance and supported Ingram's neck until paramedics arrived.
There are also at least four eyewitnesses who have described what they saw of Ingram’s arrest either to police or in court filings, according to a report completed by one of the plaintiff’s experts. Three witnesses said they saw Ingram being assaulted by police, the report said, while one said he didn’t see any blows but saw police push Ingram’s head and neck down “aggressively.” [the witnesses must be Black because the racist suspect reporter doesn’t give eyewitness testimony much weight here! A real journalism might have attempted to interview the 3 witnesses for this story.]
Dr. James J. Yue, an orthopaedic surgeon in Connecticut, Dr. William D. Matuozzi of Maryland, who specializes in radiology, and Paul C. Ivancic, a spinal biomechanics researcher from Connecticut will testify for Ingram.
All three said they believe his injuries — a damaged spinal cord, a displaced vertebrae, and other issues — are consistent with force being applied to the back and side of his neck as he lay on his stomach with his head turned to the right.
They said the force it would take to cause such a violent injury is inconsistent with a slip and fall, and the lack of head trauma or swelling means he did not hit his head hard.
Yue said he believes that the first officer’s knee on Ingram’s neck started the dislocation of the vertebrae and that the compression from Merck’s foot on his neck completed or worsened the dislocation and caused the spinal cord injury.
The two doctors also concluded that the officers’ moving and dropping Ingram, after he repeated that he couldn’t feel his legs, made his injuries worse.