NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – The haunting video, shot on a hot summer night, starts with a young man being ordered to strip naked as he is berated by a group around him.
One person squirts his body with water. Another demands money.
When he does not hand any over, the beating starts. As the naked man is lashed repeatedly, those surrounding him laugh above the crack of a belt hitting his skin.
City officials announced Wednesday that they had arrested three people they say participated in the August attack and filmed the 2 1/2-minute video.
The men were identified as 22-year-old Ahmad Holt, 31-year-old Raheem Clark and 23-year-old Jamaar Gray. Charges against them include robbery and aggravated assault. Police said Holt administered the beating, using a belt provided by Clark.
City Police Director Samuel DeMaio said all have gang affiliations and criminal histories.
“This is a human tragedy,” Mayor Cory Booker said at a press conference. “This is the kind of violence and brutality that we’ve seen rear its ugly head in Newark, around the nation, around the globe, that allows one human being to assault the dignity, to demean and to viciously attack another. And I believe, for one, that this is unacceptable behavior. I know the standards in the community are the same.”
Police did not immediately provide the names of the suspects’ attorneys.
DeMaio said the video didn’t come to the attention of police until Feb. 8. It is unclear when it was posted on the Internet, and it has since been removed from YouTube.
Acting Essex County prosecutor Carolyn Murray said her office’s cybercrimes unit is investigating the upload of the video.
The victim, now 21, “reluctantly” cooperated with police, DeMaio said. He has since moved out of the neighborhood where the beating took place out of fear of retaliation.
The victim’s father apparently owed someone $20, prompting the beating, and the group took $10 from the young man, DeMaio said. He suffered welts and abrasions from the lashing but did not require hospitalization, DeMaio said.
The video incensed community members and law enforcement in the city, which has long grappled with violent crime and recorded 88 murders last year.
“It shows there is a brutal culture in this community,” Booker said. “It’s not the city’s culture. But it is a subculture of violence and crime that we have to address. It’s not just here in Newark.”
Booker and DeMaio said they were disturbed that no one reported the beating, which took place on a warm August night and was witnessed by people who did not speak up until approached by police in February.
“When you witness something like this, stand up and speak up,” Booker said. “That’s what allows violence in the city to go on.”
Holt was already in custody in Trenton on unrelated charges, DeMaio said. Clark was arrested, and Gray turned himself in with an attorney Tuesday night, DeMaio said.
The girlfriend of one of the suspects was arrested for heroin possession.
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