A 45-year-old Mount Laurel man charged in July with bias intimidation of his Black neighbors has been charged with more offenses related to alleged ongoing harassment, and four people who showed up at protests outside his house have been charged with allegedly attacking police and damaging property, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina announced Tuesday.
Coffina also said that an “independent review” of how Mount Laurel police handled prior complaints about Edward Cagney Mathews found no favoritism shown toward Mathews, and that no individual officers nor the Mount Laurel Police Department as a whole failed to investigate or were dismissive of the complaints from neighbors in the Essex Place condo community.
The president of the NAACP chapter of Southern Burlington County criticized the findings of the review, and said the reaction among his members to the report has been “shock” that the police officers were found to have “zero culpability” in how they responded to Mathews over the years.
“It anger. It’s disappointment. It’s hurt. It’s another slap in the face,” said Marcus Sibley, the chapter president.
The case drew national attention when video of Mathews engaging in a racist rant on July 2 against his neighbors went viral on social media and led to a protest outside of his residence on Gramercy Way three days later, the same day he was arrested.
In the latest development, Mathews is accused of leaving a threatening note on the car of one of his victims earlier this year, and also vandalizing the victim’s vehicle. Mathews, who has been held at the Burlington County Jail since his July 5 arrest, was charged with bias intimidation and harassment.
He now faces 22 separate charges, including criminal mischief, stalking, possession of a weapon (slingshot) for an unlawful purpose, and related offenses.
A court-appointed attorney representing Mathews could not be reached for comment.
In the viral video, Mathews, a union laborer, was seen taunting a Black neighbor and using racial slurs. He provided his address and urged people to “come see me.” Dozens showed up at his house a few days later for a protest that lasted hours.
Mathews was eventually taken into custody in handcuffs. The crowd pelted him and the police with objects.
Coffina on Tuesday said four people in the crowd have been charged by summons. They were not taken into custody and are awaiting the scheduling of their first court appearances.
Tawanda M. Jones, 48, of Camden, allegedly discharged pepper spray at police officers. Daniel A. Harris, 25, of Beverly, allegedly threw a “brick-like object” through a window at Mathews’ home just after he was taken into custody. Christopher D. Staples, 21, of Pemberton, was accused of throwing rocks toward officers as they were walking Mathews to a police vehicle. Khalil Wilson, 18, of Mount Laurel, was accused of spitting toward police officers while standing on top of a vehicle as they escorted Mathews from his home.
“The outrage sparked by Mathews’ conduct on the viral video does not give permission to anyone to commit unprovoked assaults upon police officers or acts of vandalism,” Coffina said in a statement.
Sibley, the NAACP chapter president, said he did not condone any acts of violence or property damage, but he said the huge police presence and response had antagonized the crowd.
“Every single thing that happened … was preventable,” Silbey said.
The 25-page “independent review” of the police department’s handling of complaints against Mathews covered “roughly 42″ incidents from 2016 to 2021 and also included occurrences of Mathews calling the police.
While the review did not find favoritism toward Mathews, “a more holistic approach” by Mount Laurel police “to the problems Mathews was causing in Essex Place would have made more apparent the racist theme behind Mathews’ harassment” and “might have yielded alternate solutions” for police to consider.
“We empathize with the residents of Essex Place who were on the receiving end of Mathews’ conduct,” Coffina said. “No one should have to endure racial harassment anywhere, but especially not in their own neighborhood and even in their own home.”