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Ex-police chief charged with hate crime in assault on handcuffed black man

CAMDEN, N.J. -- A white former New Jersey police chief charged with slamming a handcuffed black man's head into a metal doorjamb harbored hatred toward African-Americans and was recorded using slurs by an officer concerned about his behavior, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday.

Frank Nucera, Jr., 60, who retired as Bordentown Township police chief while under FBI investigation in January, was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with civil rights and hate crime charges.

According to court documents, Nucera approached the 18-year-old from behind and smashed his head into a doorjamb while the suspect was being escorted by two officers from a hotel in September 2016. A fellow officer then recorded him making a series of derogatory comments where he called the man a racial slur, according to a criminal complaint.

Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said the man wasn't endangering the officers and that the assault was driven by "racial hatred."

"Chief Nucera harbored an intense, senseless, irrational and bigoted view toward African-Americans," Fitzpatrick said, citing a criminal complaint that states he once likened black people to the Islamic State terrorist group.

Nucera, 60, waived a preliminary hearing Wednesday afternoon and was allowed to return home. A federal judge ordered that he turn over firearms and travel documents to authorities and restricted his travel to the state of New Jersey. His attorney declined to comment after the hearing.

Nucera, who also served as a township administrator before retiring, had a history of making racist comments and used police dogs to intimidate African-Americans, including stationing them at high school basketball games to intimidate black fans, prosecutors said.

One of his police officers secretly recorded Nucera's comments over the course of a year because prosecutors said he was "increasingly alarmed by (Nucera's) racist remarks and hostility toward African Americans." Prosecutors said that some of them "contain extremely offensive racist comments" by Nucera.

In one of the recordings outlined by prosecutors, Nucera said of African Americans that he was "tired of them" and "it's getting to the point where I could shoot one."

"This is a crime that was identified by the Bordentown Township Police Department who saw what was going on, knew it was wrong, had enough and called the FBI," Fitzpatrick told KYW Newsradio.

Bordentown is a predominantly white town of about 11,000 a few miles from New Jersey's majority African-American capital city of Trenton.

"We are sickened by the allegations and hateful comments that underlie these charges," Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said in a statement released to CBS Philly. "There is no place for these sentiments or actions in our society, and they most definitely do not reflect the ideals of the law enforcement community across Burlington County."

Nucera could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted on one hate crime count and another count alleging deprivation of rights under color of law, the station reports.

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