Deaf, Black Students Say They Were Manhandled By Police


8:34 p.m. EDT, August 29, 2012

BELLEVILLE, NJ (PIX11)—A group of deaf men, on summer vacation from a Trenton trade school for the hearing-impaired, said they were stopped and manhandled by cops in Belleville, New Jersey Tuesday.

20 year old Isiah Isaac used “sign language” to tell the story to PIX 11 through his mother and brother. “It was six cars that surrounded them,” Isaac’s mother, Frances, said—as she followed his sign language in the family living room. “He said all the cop cars came over and blocked them in.”

17 year old Domonique Isaac—Isiah’s brother—said he was the only one of six, young men in the car who could hear. The driver, he said, was deaf—and got out of the car to fetch his license from a bag in the trunk. Isaac said, “The passenger (in the front) tried to get out and explain to the officer that he’s deaf. The driver ended up on the other side of the car and they slammed him in the passenger’s seat. When he slammed him in, that’s when I tried telling him, ‘He’s deaf, he’s deaf.’”

Domonique Isaac said his pleas to the officers fell on deaf ears, even as some of the passengers pointed to their lobes to indicate they couldn’t hear. Isaac said he was sitting in the back of the old Chevy near his deaf brother. “He told me, ‘Call my mother’” Isaac recalled. “I said, ‘No, wait … so they don’t think I have something. Like a gun.’”

The two brothers’ father, Thomas Isaac — a former Marine — said he was very upset, because his deaf son had been looking forward to getting visits from his Trenton schoolmates. “It’s like he’s sheltered here,” Thomas Isaac said, “and the time that he gets out, this is what happens to him.” The six men said they were on their way to play a basketball game, and some of them continued to the court, after the police were done frisking them — without issuing any tickets.

The father said his son told him he recalled one passenger, in particular, getting searched by an officer, “He said, ‘Look at him shaking. He must have something on him,’” Isaac recounted. “ He never thought he was shaking out of fear!”

Thomas Isaac, who works as a chef now in a school for the disabled, immediately went to the Belleville Police Department Tuesday and filed a complaint.

PIX 11 went to the Department on Wednesday and met with the Chief of Police, Joseph Rotonda.

Chief Rotonda told PIX he was briefed by Internal Affairs about the incident, and the investigation is ongoing.

“We don’t racial profile, and we don’t discriminate against the handicapped,” Chief Rotonda told PIX. “I think once the investigation is concluded, we will explain to the parents the circumstances of what happened.” At least one black police officer was among the group that responded to the car stop.

PIX 11 has learned the Belleville Police Department had an undercover patrol working in the neighborhood where the Isaacs live, because there had been a string of burglaries there — with three or four black men described as the suspects.

The father of the Isaac brothers won’t rest until there’s an explanation for what happened. “Apologize for making a public spectacle out of my kids,” Thomas Isaac said.

Copyright © 2012, WPIX-TV


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