Dover police charge Morristown teen with resisting arrest in weekend incident captured on video

Public Defender Tracy Denholtz confers with Cyprian Luke in Superior Court, May 20, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Public Defender Tracy Denholtz confers with Cyprian Luke in Superior Court, May 20, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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The Morristown teen seen on video being held down and punched by Dover police over the weekend has been charged with resisting arrest and giving a false name.

At one point during the scuffle, one of the arresting officers feared that Cyprian Luke, 19, was trying to bite him, according to a police complaint obtained Wednesday by MorristownGreen.com.

“During the struggle, he was continually told to stop resisting and place his hands behind his back. During this time as I was moving my hands to get better control of Luke, I felt his teeth come in contact with a couple of fingers. I then yelled at him not to bite me,” Sgt. Michael Pier said in a statement filed in Superior Court.

The complaint is dated Monday, May 20, 2019, the same day that Pier and two other officers, whose identities have not been disclosed, were placed on paid leave while the state Attorney General’s Office investigates the arrest.

On video shot by Luke’s friend and circulated on social media, Luke can be seen on  the ground, with an officer’s hand around his neck, taking jabs to the side of the head as police order him to stop resisting arrest.

In his statement, which does not mention punches or choke holds, Pier said the altercation left him with elbow pain, while he and another officer sustained abrasions to their hands and knees.

Luke was arrested on warrants stemming from an indictment on a domestic violence charge, and he remains in the Morris County Jail. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Superior Court to determine if he will be released pending trial.

CAUTION: Viewers may find this video disturbing:

Posted by Kisha Pinnock on Tuesday, May 21, 2019

His public defender, Tracy Denholtz, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new charges. Resisting arrest is a third-degree crime. Giving a false name to an investigating officer is a disorderly person offense.

What follows is the police account of the incident:

Police received a 911 call at 1:43 am on Sunday, May 19, that Luke was at the first floor of a residence on Blackwell Street, and that he was wanted for “an aggravated assault involving strangulation.”

Officers were given a description of Luke, then a photograph, and a dispatcher confirmed that Luke had three arrest warrants.

Cyprian Luke of Morristown at arraignment, May 20, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Cyprian Luke of Morristown at arraignment, May 20, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

At 2:08 am police saw Luke walking through a private area of a Dover apartment tower. As he was cutting through the parking lot, Pier approached him in uniform, asked for his name, and received a false one.  Pier told Luke he was under arrest.

“Luke then backed up in an attempt to flee. As he continued to pull away I told him to stop resisting and then grabbed him and pulled him towards me. During this time I felt Luke trying to get out of the sweatshirt he was wearing so he could run from the area.”

Pier held Luke until another officer got a grip on him.

Luke “continued to attempt to free himself from our control by tensing his arms and body. During the struggle, he was continually told to stop resisting and place his hands behind his back.”

After yelling at Luke not to bite him, Pier wrapped his arms around him to prevent his escape.

“We were then able to get him to the ground,” where he continued to resist. Luke “was not subdued until other responding units came to assist.”

The sergeant’s statement does not mention choke holds or punches.

During a court appearance on Monday, Luke appeared to have abrasions on his right cheek and around his nose. Family members expressed concerns he may have sustained a concussion, and said Luke was depressed and had been crying since the arrest.

Warrants out of Boonton and Morristown accused Luke of violating a judge’s orders barring him from contact with the girlfriend he allegedly shoved, kicked and choked in February.

Friends of Luke are asking the public to attend the Dover aldermen meeting on Tuesday, May 28, to voice concerns about the arrest.

On Monday, Dover Mayor James Dodd defended the police department, but called the video “disturbing,” and promised full cooperation with state and county authorities and “swift action” if they find officers acted improperly.

MORE ABOUT THIS CASE

Caution: Some viewers may find this video disturbing.

Posted by Kisha Pinnock on Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Caution: This video contains strong language.

Posted by Kisha Pinnock on Tuesday, May 21, 2019

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