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Video showing Bridgewater police breaking up fight at New Jersey mall sparks outrage

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday that “the appearance of what is racially disparate treatment is deeply, deeply troubling.”

Video of the incident reviewed by CNN shows the boys arguing before the white teen points his finger in the black teen’s face, and the black teen pushes the white teen’s hand away. The white teen pushes the black teen, who starts punching the other boy. The white teenager replies.

The black teenager ends up on the ground. Two Bridgewater Township police arrive and separate the two boys.

The black teenager starts to get up and is pinned to the ground by an officer and rolled onto his stomach with his hands behind his back. The other officer pushes the white teen onto a nearby couch, then helps handcuff the black teen. Eventually, the officers pick up the handcuffed black teenager.

It’s unclear how the incident escalated between the boys or what happened after the black teenager was handcuffed.

CNN was unable to speak to either the teens or their parents.

The black teenager, who identified himself by his first name, Kye, spoke to CNN affiliate WABC, saying his friend had a fight with the white teenager and he “sort of rushed” before it turned into a physical fight. He said officers at the scene “basically tackled him to the ground” and one officer put his knee on his back.

“The officer put his knee in my back, then he started to put the handcuffs on me, then the female officer came over and also put his knee in my upper back, and started to help me putting handcuffs on me…while (the white teenager) was just sitting on the couch watching the whole thing,” Kye said.

The Bridgewater Township Police Department said in a Facebook post that it was aware video of the incident had upset members of the community. They asked the Somerset County Attorney’s Office to investigate the incident.

“We recognize that this video has upset members of our community and call for an internal affairs investigation,” the department wrote.

“Officers were able to respond quickly to this incident and prevent it from escalating due to advice we received from the community. Patience as we strictly adhere to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Internal Affairs Directive.

“We appreciate the videos we have already received from members of the community and ask anyone who has video of this incident to email it to tips@bridgewaterpd.com. The men and women of the Department of Bridgewater Township Police are grateful to our community partners and look forward to continuing to build our positive relationships.”

Governor Murphy also said Wednesday that the incident is “just another reminder that the progress we have made in the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve … our work is not not finished, and we must continue it”.

The Somerset County District Attorney’s Office confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that its internal affairs unit is investigating both the scuffle and the police response. Bridgewater Mayor Matthew Moench said in a letter to residents that it is “not appropriate for [him] or any other township official to comment further” while the investigation is ongoing, but said he was “fully confident that the prosecutor’s review will be impartial, objective and thorough.”

The New Jersey attorney general’s office also said in a statement Wednesday that it was working closely with the attorney’s office on the investigation. “The SPCO will follow strict guidelines and procedures from the Attorney General’s Office to investigate possible misconduct and to ensure transparency and accountability,” a spokesperson said.

Kye’s mother told CNN affiliate WCBS that she wanted the officers involved to become “unemployable”.

“Maybe they could have broken up the fight and maybe put them aside and called their parents. No handcuffs, no aggression. Treat them like they were teenagers,” the mother said. “I’m not happy about it, and I want these two cops to be unemployable. That’s what I want.”

CNN’s Kiely Westhoff, Laura Ly, Mirna Alsharif and Tanika Gray contributed to this story.

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