A growing agitated crowd caused Pleasantville police to call for additional officers at a medical call Sunday, police said.
Patrol responded to King’s Food Market just before 4 p.m. for a man down possibly having a seizure, Capt. Matt Hartman said.
Police were on scene within 28 seconds and made immediate contact with the victim, who had a seizure and was bleeding, according to the report.
Patrolman Michael Ledden assessed the man and put him into a recovery position awaiting medical response, Hartman said.
Pleasantville communications relayed the information, and within about 1 minute and 15 seconds, police were told that Absecon EMS and AtlantiCare Paramedics were responding.
When officers got on the scene, there were seven men and one woman around the victim, some attempting to render aid while others were distraught, Hartman said.
But when officers asked bystanders to step back to give aid to the victim, several of the men did not comply and became belligerent. They were then ordered from the area with help from K-9 Sgt. Brandon Stocks and his partner.
The men moved to the north side of the parking lot, but “continued to verbally berate the officers and incite other bystanders to join the crowd,” Hartman said.
At that point, one man started a live cast to Facebook, which garnered much attention.
As the crowd grew, the initial response of six officers was soon outnumbered two to one, according to the report.
“Large crowd, possible fight, officers involved,” a dispatcher is heard saying in a tape obtained by BreakingAC.
“It came in as a seizure and I believe a fight broke out.” she explains.
Almost two dozen officers are seen in the video. The person taking the video says officers keep arriving, including from Egg Harbor Township and Absecon, but no medical personnel is seen as the man continues to lie on the lot’s blacktop.
In the background, police are seen trying to tend to the victim.
At one point, several more men and a woman came near the victim and began to verbally harass the officers, with one man trying to interfere physically with the victim’s care, Hartman said.
During the incident, Stocks requested the emergency medical services’ estimated time of arrival several times.
Despite attempts to taunt the officers and confront them, the officers exercised professionalism and restraint, Hartman said. The K-9 dog and an indirect burst of pepper spray successfully kept the crowd back.
The ambulance arrived about 13 minutes into the incident, according to the report. Officers carried the victim to the ambulance to help get him out of the area more quickly.
The department thanked Egg Harbor Township and Absecon police for their assistance.
“We, the officers and staff of the Pleasantville Police Department, take our duty to protect and serve our community as a sacred trust,” Police Chief Sean Riggin said. “We will not allow our officers to ignore this trust, ever. And, on June 17, Father’s Day, our officers did exactly what we expect them to do and upheld that trust. They kept an angry group at bay, without arresting or fighting an unnecessarily hostile crowd, and then disregarded their own safety to carry the patient to the ambulance while a hostile stood by and berated police without cause.”
Riggin said they also will work in the coming days with the city’s EMS to review and evaluate the contract “and ensure Pleasantville’s residents are afforded the care they deserve.”
“But today, I stand proudly behind my officers who were confronted by a crowd who seemed eager to engage in a confrontation with police over an issue the officers cannot control, ambulance response time,” he said. “I’m disappointed that all the hard work of these officers to engage in our community is thrown aside by a few reckless individuals who seemed determined to fight police or start a riot. The officers did a professional job in spite of the actions of several who sought to create a dangerous and chaotic environment and I am proud of them”.