WATCH: Video shows arrest of student who alleges Kean police used ‘excessive force’
Surveillance video obtained by The Tower through an open public records request shows Obidi Anamdi’s arrest on March 1, 2013. The video is unedited by The Tower.
By Rebecca Panico | Published Nov. 14, 2016
A former Kean honor student who is suing the Kean Police Department over alleged “excessive force” shared his story on campus at a book signing for the mother of Sean Bell, who was killed by police in New York City in 2006.
Obidi Anamdi, who is suing Kean, attended the event on Nov. 1 for Valerie Bell at the campus’s Barnes & Noble and took a seat next to her during a question-and-answer segment.
Valerie Bell spoke to a crowd of roughly 20 people about her book, “Just 23: Thoughts From a Mother.” Her son, Sean Bell, was 23 when he was killed by a hail of NYPD gunfire on the morning of his wedding. His death led to national attention and protests led by African- American activist, the Rev. Al Sharpton.
“I had an unfortunate, y’know, brush with the police,” said Anamdi, 25, as he sat next to Valerie Bell. “And long story short, I could’ve easily been Sean Bell.
“I just wanted to share my story because you actually have somebody who went through that in your community who’s still alive to tell you their story,” he later added.
In September, The Tower reported that Anamdi was suing Kean police, alleging that police battered him during an arrest in the Vaughn Eames parking lot on March 1, 2013. The university disputes Anamdi’s allegations.
“Kean University’s sworn officers followed all legal and departmental protocols in the handling of every situation involving Mr. Anamdi,” wrote Kean University spokeswoman Margaret McCorry in an email on Nov. 10. “Kean University fully supports the actions of its officers in resolving this incident in a successful way.”
Surveillance video captured Anamdi’s arrest, and The Tower requested a copy through the Open Public Records Act in June. Such requests are generally fulfilled in seven business days. On Nov. 7, Kean released the surveillance video to The Tower.
One of the videos given to The Tower shows a closer view of the incident. The camera, which McCorry said is controlled by the Campus Police Communications Center, moves at certain points throughout the video.
“Consistent with proper law enforcement procedures, a second camera was redirected to ensure the safety and protection of both Officer Roberto Cruz, dressed in plainclothes, and two other occupants in Mr. Anamdi’s vehicle,” McCorry said. “This action ensured that the entire situation would be visually documented for the protection of both the officers and the public.”
This past summer, Union County Superior Court Judge Thomas Walsh dropped many of the claims in the suit but ruled that there was enough evidence to claim Anamdi’s civil rights were violated under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act.
Walsh also said that Anamdi’s charge of conspiracy — in which he alleges that multiple officers acted in concert and were motivated by racial discrimination — may also go forward, court records say.
At the bookstore event, Valerie Bell answered questions regarding her thoughts on policing today, and Anamdi shared his thoughts.
“Y’know it lays dormant for a while and then something like this can spark it back up,” Anamdi said, referring to Valerie Bell’s story. “It’s more frustration than anything else because you always try to see why things happen, but you have to come to the realization that some things just happen for no reason at all.”
Anamdi was a senior comparative politics major at Kean, set to graduate two months later, when he was arrested. He later transferred to Rutgers University because he was placed on no-trespass list at Kean and faced intimidation by Kean police on and off campus, his lawsuit alleges.
“This is a real issue that we have in America,” Anamdi said. “Whether you’re white, black, Hispanic, Asian, whatever have you, this is all our problem, believe it or not … I look at the university now and I see all types of people — all types of races, backgrounds, ages — and we’re all one. Just start thinking. Open your mind up to what’s really going on out there.”
According to Kean police reports obtained by The Tower through OPRA, the 2013 incident began when police spotted Anamdi’s car at around 2 a.m. “driving at a recklessly high rate of speed” in the Vaughn Eames parking lot. Backup was called because Anamdi was ignoring officers’ commands, a police report states.
Police reports state that Patrolman Chris Blath initiated an arrest for “hindering and disorderly” conduct after Anamdi began to scream, curse and refused to show his hands.
Anamdi tried to run away after he pushed himself off a patrol car, causing two officers to fall, police reports stated. Officers used their expandable batons to strike him in the legs and hands, a police report said. He was eventually wrestled to the ground and handcuffed.
Anamdi’s lawsuit alleges that Kean patrolman Blath “became irate and maliciously beat [Anamdi] in the head and body with his baton causing severe bruising and lacerations” to Anamdi’s head and body. Anamdi’s lawsuit also says that he showed his I.D. upon request.
Surveillance video obtained by The Tower through an open public records request shows a different angle of Anamdi’s arrest on March 1, 2013. The video is unedited by The Tower.
Kean police charged Anamdi with 12 infractions, including driving while intoxicated, aggravated assault on a police officer and terroristic threats. He was held in Union County jail for two days, the suit states.
Court records obtained by The Tower show that Anamdi was found innocent of 11 out of 12 charges, and guilty of a municipal violation of disorderly conduct.
The university, through their spokeswoman, said the officers were “protecting themselves” during the altercation.
“The officers responded to Mr. Anamdi’s physical assault by protecting themselves through the effective use of lawful force to bring the altercation to a prompt resolution without the use of firearms or serious injury to anyone.”
The case is still in discovery, a period in which both parties’ lawyers gather evidence in a lawsuit.
“In my community — I’m from Irvington, New Jersey — unfortunately, if an altercation happens or an incident happens, the last thing the we do is call the police,” Anamdi said at Barnes & Noble. “That’s the absolute last thing we do is call the police. And that just shows you how far gone we are from our belief in the police system.”
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in print with a headline which read, “Student suing Kean police says ‘This is all our problem.’ It has been updated from the print edition to reflect a new statement from the university.