NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—City taxpayers will pay $95,000 to two young men who say they were beaten after the NBPD wrongfully broke into their house in December 2010, while county taxpayers will chip in an additional $25,000 to the victims.
Jake Kostman and Kareem Najjar, both 19-year-old Rutgers students at the time, said in a lawsuit that more than twenty police officers broke down their door, beat them up, and left them handcuffed for two hours near their open doorframe on an 11-degree night.
The officers were part of a joint task force of Middlesex County Sherriff's officers and New Brunswick police officers executing a warrant and hoping to find drugs. But, for all of their collaboration, they busted down the wrong door.
The suit lists the names of five New Brunswick officers who were part of the botched raid: Detectives Miguel Chang, Drew Weiss, Robert Bogdanski, Seargent Scott Gould, and Officer Keith Walcott.
Weiss was involved in a shooting that paralyzed a 19-year-old man just over a year later, and has also led to a lawsuit, as we reported last month. Gould has since been named the supervisor of the "Community Outreach Unit."
The suit says that neither Kostman nor Najjar were charged with a crime, though officers harassed them under the false pretense that they were "steroid users." Further, there was no warrant for them or their basement apartment unit.
Drugs were later found in a different apartment in the multi-unit building at 260 Somerset Street.
Still, the men say the officers did not identify themselves as officers until after they were handcuffed. Both men told ABC7 they were kicked and stepped on by police, as well as hit in the head. Kostman said he was given permanent nerve damage in his thumb from the overly tight handcuffs.
"It's really intimidating and really scary when there's a bunch of people just yelling at you and hitting you. You don't believe that's something that cops would do," Kostman said in the ABC interview.
Kostman, said that officers called him a "faggot" for huddling next to his roommate for warmth.
The lawsuit also says that police called another roommate "a fat slob" and, remarked of a Korean roommate, "damn Koreans breed with the damn Japanese and those were the ones that bombed pearl harbor."
Kostman's father, a retired police officer from Lake Tahoe, Nevada, attended the February 16, 2011 City Council meeting and spoke against the brutality.
The Daily Targum's Joseph Schulhoff covered the Council meeting with an excellent video.
Kostman told Schulhoff after the meetings, "It frankly disturbs me that the statement made by the President of the Council [Robert Recine] was the first time he was made aware of this incident was in the newspaper several days ago. It further disturbs me that he didn't inquire afterward to see what was going on.
"I came here tonight to get some sort of answers, to find out that indeed this was being taken seriously, an investigation was being launched. But I come to find out, no."
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.