Rabbi Yudel Shain is sending around a link to a CBS-2 video of a Lakewood woman and her father who are alleging police brutality. The police officer accused? The same one who arrested a Lakewood rosh yeshiva several months ago after he interfered with the officer as he was performing a traffic stop on the rabbi's niece.
This new incident, which allegedly took place some unspecified time in "late November," [UPDATE: November 20th, see below] has just now come to light. The woman, Nicole Robinson, alleges that Officer Menck beat her for several minutes and that beating was unprovoked. "I thought I was going to die," she said.
Rabbi Shain's implication is clear. This is a bad cop with a proclivity for sadistic, unprovoked violence. This therefore "exonerates" the rosh yeshiva.
Except for this – why did these people wait almost two weeks to come forward? Fear? I don't believe so. And here's why:
The video mentions the injuries sustained by Ms. Robinson and flashes for a few seconds a hospital document. I stopped the video and read the document. It contains the doctor's diagnosis: Neck-chest strain, confusion, chest [pain] and acute anxiety reaction. There is no mention of blunt-force injuries, bruises, wrist damage (the woman is wearing a wrist brace in the video), bleeding or other injuries that would come from the beating described by Ms. Robinson and her father. The doctor's report sustains the officers' version of events.
And that is most likely why Ms. Robinson did not come forward earlier. But, two weeks or so after the "beating," with a wrist brace and tears, people might believe her – especially if she realized that one of the officers who arrested her is the same officer involved in the Rabbi Bursztyn arrest and the very well-publicized controversy it engendered. A lot of money can be made on a case like this, a fact Ms. Robinson surely knows.
But the circulation of this CBS-2 video by Lakewood haredi elements is even more troubling. Were rabbis (not necessarily Rabbi Shain) behind Ms. Robinson's apparent decision to exploit this arrest? They certainly benefit from it at least as much as Ms. Robinson. (It should be noted that Ms. Robinson is not Jewish.)
Either way, we have another case of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbis behaving very badly.
UPDATE #1: The first "media" report of this incident seems to have appeared in the Lakewood Shopper, a haredi-owned publication. As you read the Shopper's "report" below, note that the "reporter" interviewed only Ms. Robinson and relies completely on her testimony. No other witnesses are interviewed.
Also note this telling remark: "This past Monday night, Robinson and her family met with some members of the Lakewood community to share details of the incident." The community in question? Apparently ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Is this a conspiracy to get and defame the police officer? It may well be.
The Lakewood Shopper "reports":
It appears that Patrolman Erik Menck is in trouble once again. This time he has been accused by Nichole Robinson, a resident of Coventry Square, of assaulting her. At about 2:20 p.m. on Sunday, November 20th, Menck responded to a call of a disorderly person at a beauty supply store in the Shoprite Plaza. That led him to Robinson's home on Williamsburg Lane in Coventry Square.
Back in June, the same officer was involved in an altercation that ensued after he pulled over the niece of Rav Yosef Bursztyn to issue her a ticket.
This past Monday night, Robinson and her family met with some members of the Lakewood community to share details of the incident.
Robinson recounts that she went to a beauty supply store located in the Shoprite Plaza to return an item she had purchased. The clerk in the store refused to refund the item. Robinson threw the item on the counter, which inadvertently knocked over some items. The clerk was visibly upset and threatened to call the police. Robinson left the store and headed home.
Shortly after arriving at her home, Robinson heard strong banging on her door. Her father, Horace Cody, answered the door. Officer John Wilson of the Lakewood Police Department was standing there. When asked why he was banging so noisily on the door, Wilson apologized and said that it was his partner who had banged on the door. Officer Erik Menck then entered the home and asked Robinson and her father why no one was answering the door. Robinson responded that she was in the bathroom and everyone was upstairs, and asked the officer if he can please keep the noise down because she didn't want to startle her children.
Menck then asked Robinson to go put on her shoes so that he can get a statement from her.
"I agreed to do so," says Robinson. "As I turned to go get my shoes, Officer Menck grabbed my left arm, bending it to the point where it snapped. He then punched me in the back of the neck causing me to fall on my mother's table.
"Officer Menck continued to assault me excessively," continued Robinson.
Her father began to yell at the other officer to help, but Robinson said "he just stood there as Officer Menck brutally attacked me."
According to Robinson, her father then asked for the phone and said he was going to report this. Menck slammed his elbow into the back of Robinson's neck, thereby breaking her mother's table. "I could hear my children crying at the time," Robinson recounted.
This went on for 15-20 minutes, according to Robinson. She was having trouble breathing and asked the officers if she could take her medication. "She's not getting anything," responded Menck, according to Robinson's report.
Menck again became hostile, smacking Robinson's face into her glass screen door. "I was near passing out and vomiting," said Robinson.
Robinson said at the meeting Monday night that she was never read her rights nor was she told why the officers had come to her home.
Once she was brought outside the house, Robinson's neighbors rushed to her aid, yelling at the officer and pleading with him to call an ambulance. According to Robinson, both officers refused to call for medical help. Another neighbor, Zakia Miller, came out of her house and started to call an ambulance, and that is when Officer Wilson said that he would call for medical help. He then told Miller to "mind her own business."
According to Robinson, Zakia Miller accompanied her to the hospital and heard Menck making threats and verbally abusing Robinson.
When they arrived at Kimball Medical Center, Robinson said that Menck continued to threaten her, saying that if she gets a lawyer he was going to "put enough charges on her" so that she will "go into jail and not get out." Robinson begged the Emergency Room nurses not to leave her alone with the officer.
After being taken to the radiology department, Robinson says that Menck continued to embarrass and abuse her.
Robinson said she has damage to her eye, as well as swelling in her rib cage area, for which she is taking medication. "The doctor saw a cervical mass in my back and small fractures in my rib cage," she said, adding that she will need surgery on her mouth as a result of the incident, in addition to multiple medical complications that have resulted.
Shortly thereafter, Robinson was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer and spent the night in Ocean County Jail. Horace Cody was charged with interfering with an arrest during the incident.
"I never threatened Officer Menck," Robinson said. "I did not assault him and I did not cause any problems."
Menck's report states differently, however, claiming that Robinson "committed aggravated assault by attempting to cause bodily injury….specifically by punching this officer several times in the face with a closed fist."
Witnesses completely refute the officer's account of the story.
Interestingly, Robinson said, this week she visited an orthopedist to assess her injuries. When she repeated the details of the incident to the doctor, he responded that Officer Menck is actually a patient of his, and, considering the fact that he is scheduled for surgery to repair a herniated disc, it was surprising to hear that he was out on duty for the police force.
On November 23, Sergeant Peter T. Mills, of the Professional Responsibility Oversight Unit at the Office of the Prosecutor of Ocean County, submitted a letter to Al Peters, Director of the Lakewood Township Police Department advising him of Robinson's complaints regarding Officer Menck and the various charges she has filed against him.
The incident is currently under investigation.
Lakewood residents are scratching their heads, trying to make some sense of this most recent disturbing incident.
Again, the doctor's report does NOT support Ms. Robinson's claims.
UPDATE #2: The Asbury Park Press reports:
In a separate incident, Nichole Robinson, whose age was not available, was charged Nov. 20 with aggravated assault on Patrolman Erik Menck, Detective Lt. Joseph Isnardi said.
Menck responded to a 2:23 p.m. call of a disorderly person at a beauty supply store on Madison Avenue. The investigation sent him to Robinson's home on Williamsburg Lane, Isnardi said. During an interview, Robinson assaulted Menck, who had responded there along with officers John Doyle, Robert Perfilio and John Wilson, Isnardi said.
Robinson was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer after she was taken to Kimball Medical Center in Lakewood for treatment of asthma, Isnardi said.
Horace Cody, whose age was not available, also of Williamsburg Lane, was charged with interfering with an arrest during the incident, Isnardi said.
This confirms what I have already noted several times – the doctor's diagnosis does not support Nicole Robinson's claim of a beating by police. It does support an asthma attack coupled with severe anxiety and neck strain, probably from being subdued after she attacked the police.
Lakewood's haredim should be ashamed of themselves.
UPDATE #3: The Asbury Park Press reports (12/09/05) on Ms. Robinson's claims. Note that the story she tells the APP reporter is different from the one she told on CBS-2. Also note that 18 days after the alleged assult, Ms. Robinson can still not produce any medical records to back up her claims:
A patrolman embroiled earlier this year in the high-profile arrest of a community leader is now the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation after a woman he recently charged with assaulting him alleged he beat her up in her home.
Public Safety Director Al Peters confirmed Thursday there is a departmental investigation into allegations that Patrolman Erik Menck used excessive force while arresting Nichole Robinson of Lakewood on Nov. 20. The investigation started in the days after the arrest when Robinson verbally complained to authorities about Menck's treatment of her.
"At this point, there's nothing concrete that's been demonstrated," Peters said. "We're anxiously awaiting the . . . results of the investigation."
Peters said he asked the Ocean County Prosecutor's office to assist in the investigation, the same process he used after Menck was probed this summer following his arrest of Rabbi Yosef Bursztyn.
That incident left Bursztyn, 62, charged with aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. The case is still pending at the Prosecutor's Office.
In Robinson's case, police say they went to a Route 9 beauty supply store for a disorderly persons call on Nov. 20. Robinson had got into a small dispute about returning an item to the store, said Herbert Ellis, Robinson's lawyer.
The investigation of that call led four officers, including Menck, to Robinson's Williamsburg Lane town house in Coventry Square. In an interview Thursday, Robinson said Menck assaulted her in the house.
"He grabbed my left arm and pulled it back up to my neck," Robinson said. "I heard it pop. He punched me in the back of the neck and he elbowed me and punched me in the back a second time."
Robinson's father, Horace Cody, 66, said Menck also shoved him into a wall. Ellis said Robinson has not filed formal charges against Menck, but added he plans to file notice that he will sue the township for monetary damages.
A difference in stories
Investigators Thursday declined to detail the events of the arrest, saying the matter was under investigation. A police spokesman said last week that Robinson assaulted Menck as he interviewed her for a statement. Cody was charged with interfering with an arrest.
Police say that after they arrived, Robinson was taken to Kimball Medical Center on Route 9 for treatment of asthma. Robinson said she does not suffer from asthma.
She said she would provide medical records that show injuries to her back, neck and hands, although those records were not provided Thursday night.
"A message has to be sent to Lakewood," said Ellis, a Freehold-based lawyer. "This officer needs to be reprimanded and he needs anger management."
Detective John Stillwell, president of the Lakewood police union, defended Menck, a New Jersey police officer for seven years who has served in Lakewood for two years.
"The union will stand behind Erik as we have stood behind Erik and other officers previously," Stillwell said. "I'm sure, once again, whatever allegations are made against Erik . . . will be proved unfounded."
Stillwell's comment referred to a letter from investigators this summer that ruled Menck acted appropriately when arresting Bursztyn on June 26.
Although Menck was cleared, at the time, the altercation sparked tension between some in the Orthodox community and the Police Department. Hundreds of Orthodox men rallied outside the police headquarters — garnering news attention around the country — and demanded justice and an explanation for why a 62-year-old man had to be physically held down to be arrested.
Bursztyn's charges have not been resolved yet, said Robert A. Gasser, executive assistant Ocean County prosecutor. Gasser would not say when the charges would be heard by a grand jury.