#BlackLivesMatter: Who Was Phillip White?

Phillip White was walking in the late morning of March 31, 2015, in Vineland, the New Jersey town where he lived. Police officers approached him, responding to a call about a disorderly person. It is unclear how the encounter began, but it ended with an unarmed, 32-year-old White arrested, taken away in an ambulance, and declared dead upon arriving at the hospital.

What happened in the interim was witnessed by several bystanders and recorded in two videos that emerged online and in the local news in the following days.

Two police officers from Vineland, New Jersey, are being investigated as Mr. White died in custody following an attack by a police dog.

The videos were taken from about the same angle and overlapping moments of the incident. They both begin with White on the ground. Though White’s upper body is mostly obscured by a car and the officer straddling his torso, his legs are noticeably still when the officer calls a canine to attack his face. “Get that dog off,” a witness can be heard shouting. “He’s knocked out. He’s not even moving.” The second video ends with an officer approaching the filmer saying he will have to take his phone for evidence.

Police have said that White tried to grab an officer’s gun. Several witnesses have told the media that an officer punched White and that he was unconscious by the time the officer set a dog to attack him.

After the video ends, White appeared to be in respiratory distress, according to a press release by the Cumberland County Prosecutor. He was handcuffed, restrained, and placed in an emergency vehicle accompanied by an officer, but died en route to the hospital.

While it is not clear from the video what took place prior to White’s arrest, Vineland police say they responded to a call for service for a “disorderly person,” the prosecutor’s office said. In a 911 recording released Tuesday, a caller can be heard telling the dispatcher that White is “freaking out,” “going crazy,” and “screaming,” according to NBC Philadelphia. An autopsy is pending.

“There are great concerns about the circumstances that surround this death,” said Conrad Benedetto, an attorney for the White family, in a statement last week. “The public and Mr. White’s family deserve answers as to how Phillip was killed and why there is a lack of oversight of local police.”

Vineland Police Chief Timothy Codispoti said that White reached for an officer’s gun before the camera started rolling, NBC Philadelphia reported, and that two of the officers involved had been placed on administrative leave.

*Gathered from Witness.org


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