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Video of New Jersey officers breaking up teens' mall fight raises concerns about racial disparity

Investigation Into Police Response To Fight At NJ Mall 01:03

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. -- An investigation is underway into how officers handled a brawl between two teenagers at a mall in New Jersey.

As CBS2's Cory James reports, some are questioning whether the teens were treated differently because of their race.

Two teens seen throwing punches at each other inside Bridgewater Commons Mall appear to get two different responses from the officers who showed up.

A Black eighth grader had two officers kneel on his back to handcuff him while the other teenager involved in the fight is seen sitting on a sofa.

"I was confused, like, why they saw me as a bad person, like, me as an aggressor," said 14-year-old Kye, who asked that we not use his last name.

Kye says the fight broke out after he stood up for a friend who was getting picked on by the other teen.

He says seeing video of the officers on top of him for nearly 30 seconds is scary and frustrating.

"If they don't know how to treat the situation and deal with the situation equally and fairly, then they shouldn't be able to deal with the situation at all," he said.

Kye's mom, Ebone, agrees.

"Maybe they could have broken up the fight and maybe set them aside and called their parents, no cuffs, no aggression, dealt with them like they were teenagers," she said.

In a statement, the Bridgewater Police Department said in part, "We recognize that this video has made members of our community upset and are calling for an internal affairs investigation. The officers were able to respond quickly to this incident and stop it from escalating because of a tip we received from the community."

Meanwhile, Kye and his mother say they are grateful for the support, and they hope when it comes to the officers, more will be done.

"For them to be fired," Kye said.

"I'm not happy about it, and I do want those two cops to become unemployable. That's what I would like," Ebone said.

Kye has been banned from the mall for three years.

His mom says right now they are choosing not to say whether they feel the incident was racially motivated.

Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted Tuesday night, saying he is "deeply disturbed by what appears to be racially disparate treatment in this video."

The governor addressed the incident again Wednesday, saying, "Although the investigation is still gathering facts, but I am, and I want to reiterate, I'm deeply disturbed by what appears to be a racially disparate treatment in the video."

The NAACP of New Jersey released a statement saying in part that it was "disappointed to see still another police action irrefutably showing the disparate treatment of African Americans in our police institutions."

The NAACP is calling for the officers to be removed from the force, pending an investigation.

Editor's note: This story first appeared on Feb. 15.

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