Two Wildwood Police officers have been reassigned to desk duty and an investigation has been launched into the circumstances surrounding a Memorial Day weekend incident captured on video showing police punching a woman on the beach, the city's police department said.
The scene on the beach at Wildwood got nasty Saturday afternoon when two police officers wrestled a woman on the ground, one of them wrapping his arm around her neck and punching her in the head, a video posted on Twitter with more than a million views shows.
"Stop resisting," voices call out to the woman, as a baby wails and the woman repeatedly screams: "You're not allowed to hit me and choke me like that!" and "I didn't do anything wrong."
The woman, who identified herself in a Facebook post as Emily Weinman from Philadelphia, said the officers approached her and a friend and asked them their age. In the Facebook post, Weinman admitted having beer but said that she hadn't drunk any. When the officers conducted a Breathalyzer test on her, it came back negative, she said in the Facebook post.
Public records indicate Weinman is 20.
When the police continued to hang around, she says, she asked them why they didn't have anything better to do, to which one cop responded that he hadn't planned to write her up but now he was going to do so. She said she didn't want to give him her name, adding that she had her 18-month-old daughter with her. The altercation escalated after she tripped and fell, which is when she said the cops tackled her.
"Yes, i know I should've gave him my name., I was partly wrong in a way but I was scared," Weinman wrote on Facebook. She could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Weinman was charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer, aggravated assault by spitting bodily fluids on a police officer, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstruction, and being a minor in possession of alcohol, police said on the department's Facebook page Sunday afternoon.
According to court documents, the episode was not Weinman's first encounter with police. In November, she pleaded guilty to simple assault and recklessly endangering another person over a September 2016 episode in Philadelphia. Details were not available.
Weinman's Facebook post, which is public, has become a forum for dozens of strangers weighing in on police misconduct and whether Weinman deserved to be punched.
Reached by phone Sunday, Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the episode was a "shame." He said police would soon release body camera footage that shows Weinman insulting the cops and spitting on them.
"It wasn't just that this officer decided to beat her up," he said. "That wasn't the case."
When asked about the use of force, Troiano said he couldn't comment because he didn't know the whole story but did say: "We don't like to see anyone get hit, period. But then again, when you have someone who's aggressively attacking you or spitting at you … I wasn't there. I don't know."
He also expressed frustration at the amount of underage drinking.
"I don't understand why it seems to be that this is a God-given right that they can come here and drink underage," he said, adding that no one is allowed to drink in public or on the beach in Wildwood unless they are attending an event that has received a permit to allow drinking.
In its own Facebook post, the Wildwood Police Department quotes Chief Robert N. Regalbuto as saying that "while he finds this video to be alarming, he does not want to rush to judgment until having the final results of the investigation."
Police asked anyone who was present during the altercation who has video that would assist in the investigation to contact Detective Lt. Kenneth Gallagher at 609-522-0222.
The Cape May County Prosecutor's Office, Professional Standards Unit, will be aiding Wildwood police in the investigation, Wildwood authorities said.