TRENTON, N.J. — City police officer Drew Inman was arrested Tuesday morning by the FBI as part of an investigation targeting former and current officers over allegations of use of excessive force.
The FBI was investigating Inman, former TPD officer Anthony Villanueva, and Mark Kieffer III in connection with the April 2017 arrest of Chanzie Washington, reported NJ.com.
Inman and Villanueva were two of the officers caught on tape appearing to throw blows after Washington surrendered following a wild foot chase through the city.
Jerome Ballarotto, Villanueva’s attorney, confirmed the FBI went to his client’s house in Ewing around 6 a.m. and arrested him at gunpoint, “terrorizing” his wife and children, reported The Trentonian.
Villanueva was fired last summer after repeated instances of excessive force, and three of his accusers have since filed suit against him and the department.
A six-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Trenton last week, unsealed Tuesday, charged Villanueva, 25, and Inman, 25, with deprivation of civil rights under color of law and falsifying police records.
Furthermore, Villanueva’s charges also related to his macing of a suspect in police lockup in 2017, according to the six-count indictment.
Charges from the indictment carry up to 10 and 20 years in prison, respectively, and a maximum $250,000 fine if the officers are convicted, according to the federal government.
With their hands cuffed in front of them, Villanueva and Inman appeared Tuesday afternoon before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni.
Of note, Inman was still attired in his Trenton Police uniform of the day, which was a black polo shirt and cargo pants.
Sitting next to their attorneys, they remained quiet as U.S. assistant attorney Joseph Gribko briefly recapped the case against them.
Each man did not speak other than to acknowledge the judge when she advised them of their right to remain silent.
“With your experience, I’m sure you’re familiar with your Fifth Amendment rights,” Bongiovanni said during the 10-minute court appearance.
Villanueva and Inman were each ordered released on $50,000 unsecured bonds with conditions.
Bongiovanni ordered the government to turn over to the defense the names of any witnesses and victims so there wasn’t any confusion.
“I know it’s a small community,” the judge told the defendants. “If you encounter them, you need to promptly notify your [attorneys]. I don’t want you back here because of a mistake. … You don’t want to come back here. We will have problems if you do.”
Ballarotto said his client cooperated with the feds and testified at an administrative law hearing. The defense attorney called the case a “travesty.”
“Personally, it’s devastating to him, He’s got a family. His father was a police officer. It’s a whole family of public servants in the city of Trenton,” he said. “It’s a travesty for him, but also for the law abiding resident of the city of Trenton, at a time when we need good honest hard-working police officers who really want to the job and at the same time want to go home to their families at night without getting a bullet in the chest. The gun-toting drug dealers in Trenton are probably throwing a party tonight since he was taken off the street. He was a good cop and still is a good cop.”
U.S. attorney Craig Carpenito said in a statement that cops have a “difficult and dangerous,” job but must perform their duties while respecting “the civil rights of the people they are policing. They cannot resort to excessive force in performing their duties. Incidents like these erode the public’s confidence in law enforcement, and make policing harder for everyone whose job it is to keep our communities safe.”
FBI Newark Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie called the officers’ actions a violation of “trust.”
“Civil rights violations are of great concern, particularly when the allegations involve a member of law enforcement,” he said in a statement. “The public has an absolute right to trust that law enforcement will protect those they serve and keep them safe. When that trust is violated, it makes it more difficult for our fellow police officers and federal agents to maintain the community’s confidence.”
Mayor Reed Gusciora declined to comment on the arrests.
Capt. Stephen Varn, who is serving as acting police director, confirmed Inman’s arrest at TPD headquarters.
“Trenton Police Department was aware of the investigation and cooperated fully with federal authorities. The appropriate departmental administrative actions will be taken,” he said.
Kieffer III, the son of Capt. Mark Kieffer Jr., was not charged in the indictment and not mentioned by name.
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