WATCH: Video Shows Altercation in New Jersey Police Lockup That Got Officer Suspended

TRENTON, New Jersey – Video footage from inside city police headquarters shows a wild encounter between an arrestee and a cop who is now under federal investigation and will probably be sued.

Quaree Singletary engaged in a struggle with city cop Anthony Villanueva after Villanueva abruptly ended Singletary’s phone call to relatives.

Villanueva was assigned to TPD lockup after being pulled off the streets following an altercation with a suspect caught on tape in April. Documents obtained through a public records request shows he filed 14 use of force reports within a two-year period. He was suspended without pay last month while the use of force investigations play out.

Villanueva’s attorney, George Dougherty of Katz & Dougherty law firm, said he believes his client will be vindicated after all sides of the story are told.

“I have hope that the Department of Justice and the Trenton police department are equally-minded in terms of doing something fair,” Dougherty said. “I’ve already made plans to defend him on these charges, but there’s no sense putting on my battle gear before the battle starts. I believe that if my client gets a fair hearing he won’t be charged.”

Indeed, the circumstances surrounding the altercation with Singletary are not exactly black and white. The following account was pieced together using video footage, police reports and an interview with Singletary.

Around 5:15 p.m. on November 28, state police arrested Singletary in connection with an outstanding warrant and took him to TPD lockup. Video shows Villanueva uncuff Singletary and frisk him for drugs or weapons without incident, prior to entering the phone room.

When the two men enter the room, Villanueva writes information regarding the call in a notebook and Singletary picks up the phone. Then, while Singletary speaks to relatives about obtaining money to pay bail, Villanueva paces back and forth waiting for the call to end.

A police department directive says phone calls by inmates in TPD lockup should “be limited to five minutes or less.” The timestamp on the video shows Singletary was on the phone for nearly eight minutes.

Video provided to the newspaper last week through a public records request does not contain audio, so it’s difficult to know exactly what each party said during the encounter. But it’s clear that Villanueva exchanged words with Singletary prior to ending the call.

The police report says Villanueva told Singletary he would be forced to unplug the phone if he did not end the call.

“As I began to walk toward Singletary, he immediately began to tense up,” Villanueva’s report says. “As I reached for the phone, Singletary smacked my hand out of the way.”

Indeed, video appears to show Singletary slap Villanueva’s hand away from the phone.

“Yo, why would you do that,” Singletary recalled telling Villanueva in an exclusive interview with The Trentonian.

A struggle then ensues and a police aide joins to help subdue the prisoner. The struggle then moves from the phone room toward the cell hall, during which time Singletary allegedly elbows Villanueva in the body, according to the police report.

Villanueva then leaves the struggle to grab a bottle of mace off a desk in the detention unit.

While Villanueva retrieves the mace, Singletary heads toward a cell. However, it’s not clear whether Singletary had been assigned a cell at this point or simply chose one on his own accord. Singletary has a lengthy rap sheet with a history of arrests in Trenton that date back to at least 2011. It’s safe to assume he would know where the cells are located in TPD headquarters. He was last arrested for a drug offense in February of this year.

As Singletary enters a cell, he appears to yell back toward Villanueva. The police report says Singletary began to scream, which caused other prisoners to become irate.

Video then shows the cell door closing on Singletary as Villanueva catches up to him carrying mace. Villanueva then sprays mace in Singletary’s cell, which also affects prisoners in adjacent cells.

At this point, Villanueva tells the police aide to reopen the cell so he can handcuff Singletary and process him on the new assault charge for elbowing him in the side. The police report says Villanueva told the prisoner to get on the ground to be handcuffed, and that Singletary refused.

As the police aide opened the cell door, the report says, “Singletary began to clear his throat and spit in my direction.”

Video shows Villanueva then sprays more mace and Singletary picks up a bed mat.

“I used the mattress as a shield,” Singletary said of his efforts to protect himself.

Singletary then pushes past Villanueva, heading toward the main detention hallway, and runs back into the phone room.

Villanueva then struggles to place Singletary in handcuffs while the police aide calls for assistance from other officers who eventually subdued the prisoner.

Singletary said he asked to be taken to the hospital because he was having a hard time breathing but was shrugged off. A police aide later gave Singletary and other prisoners water to wash out their throat and eyes.

“I never want to be maced again in my life,” Singletary said. “It ain’t no joke. It burns. My eyes burned for like two, three days.”

After the ordeal, Singletary was charged with assault on a law enforcement officer.

Indeed, several things went wrong that day, and had they not, this altercation may not have happened.

For starters, Villanueva should not have been placed in TPD lockup pending a use of force investigation, especially considering he filed 14 use of force reports within a two-year period.

The point of restricted duty is to remove the officer from interaction with the general public while the use of force investigation plays out, and department officials should have known Villanueva would eventually encounter an arrestee who refuses police commands, which could lead to use of force.

Secondly, Villanueva probably should’ve called for backup as soon as Singletary walked into the cell refusing to be processed on the new assault charge.

At the time of the altercation with Singletary, Villanueva was already under investigation for allegedly using excessive force during the April 9 arrest of Chanzie Washington. Officers Drew Inman and Mark Kieffer III are also under investigation for use of force during that arrest.

Federal investigators, who took over the case from the county prosecutor’s office, recently visited Singletary’s house and told him to get an attorney because he was the victim of an alleged crime. Singletary retained Robin Lord, who called the encounter an example of “obvious police abuse.”

“This s**t’s got to stop,” she said. “It’s a systemic atmosphere of ‘We can do what we want and no one is going to do anything about it.’ People don’t have civil rights in the city of Trenton. They don’t have any respect for people.”