A nationally recognized civil rights attorney who has represented the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin has been retained to represent the family of Z’Kye Husain, a Black teen who was detained by police at a New Jersey mall last weekend.
Ben Crump, who has gained prominence representing the families of Black men and women killed by police throughout the United States, has agreed to represent Husain, a Black eighth grade student who was forcefully detained by Bridgewater police last weekend following a fight with another teen at the mall that was captured on a now viral video.
In a news release, Crump, who has offices in Washington, DC, Florida and California, said the video shows a white teen and a Black teen in an argument that escalates into a physical altercation in which two police officers approach, and one officer pins Z’Kye to the ground, handcuffing him while the other teen stands by with no restraints.
“Z’Kye was defending a younger friend in the seventh grade who was being bullied by a much older 11th grader when this incident unfolded. Z’Kye, an eighth grader, was noble to defend his friend from bullies; however, it is evident that officers immediately assumed that because of the color of Z’Kye’s skin, him acting nobly was not even in the realm of possibility. This video says it all,” Crump said in the news release.
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Husayn told CBS News the experience made him feel inferior to the white teen, identified as Joseph by the outlet.
Joseph said he did not bully or tease Husain’s friend and was confused why he wasn’t put into handcuffs.
“I even offered to get detained when I was on the couch. I put my hands up like this and I said, ‘You guys could detain me.’ She said ‘No, because you were calm,'” he told CBS News.
The incident is under investigation by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.
Crump said the video has prompted questions about the officers’ actions in pinning the Black teen but not using any force on the white teen who was also involved in the incident.
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“We are so thankful that Z’Kye made it out of this incident with his life. It is no secret that dealing with police in America is more dangerous for Black men — and teenagers — than it is for white men. Z’Kye was no more of a threat to those officers than the white teen who fought with him.This is another example of the kind of racial bias that we need to root out of our system of policing.These officers need to be reprimanded and retrained to overcome the implicit bias that results in unequal – and often dangerous – treatment of Black people,” Crump said.
Contributing: Asha C. Gilbert
Contact Suzanne Russell at [email protected]