It has been a year since New Jersey native Phillip White fell victim to the widespread plague of police brutality. But for his mother, it just feels like yesterday when the police showed up at her workplace with the tragic news.
The 32-year-old died of “respiratory distress” on March 31, 2015, after Vineland police detained him for disorderly conduct. While the witnesses claimed White, who was reportedly unarmed at the time, “didn’t do anything wrong” and was beaten even after he fell unconscious, the police insist that he remained so aggressive that one cop suffered a “serious shoulder injury.”
However, the video of the arrest caught by bystanders raised several legitimate questions about the cops’ role in White’s death. The two officers involved in the incident, Louis Platania and Rich Janasiak, not only tackled the man to the ground, but also set their dog on him. White died on the way to the hospital, and although authorities cite heart attack as the cause of his death, they still have not released his autopsy report to his family because the case is still “under investigation.”
“It took a long time until we were even able to get the death certificate in this case,” said Stanley King, attorney for the White family.
Now, if White was indeed on PCP — as the cops have alleged — and died of a heart attack, why is the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office still sitting on the official medical report that would confirms this, saving Platania and Janasiak from facing any charges?
In addition to that, the video of the arrest clearly shows the dog bit White while he was still struggling on the ground, which might prove problematic in front of a jury.
“He's missed and he didn't deserve to die like he did,” said victim’s mother Pamela White. “We will never forget him.”
White’s family and friends are holding a memorial on Thursday to commemorate his life.
“I haven’t seen it,” the mother added, referring to the video. “Whenever it pops up I just click away from it. I know what I know from what everyone has told me, and that’s more than enough.”
Such cases rob people of all hope of justice at the hands of law enforcement agencies. While the White family awaits the official report that might lead to indictments of the officers who arrested him, the said officers continue to be a part of the force and exercise their immense power over others.
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Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Eduardo Munoz