Woman punched by police officer at NJ beach shares her side of the story

PHOTO: Emily Wienman appears on "Good Morning America," June 6, 2018.PlayABC News
WATCH Woman punched by officer on beach speaks out

The woman who was captured on video being repeatedly punched by a police officer on a Jersey Shore beach over the Memorial Day weekend is still grappling with the emotional "trauma," she said Wednesday.

"Now that this happened, it's a trauma," Emily Weinman, 20, said in an interview on ABC News’ "Good Morning America" with co-anchor Amy Robach. "It's going to take me a while to look at a police officer the same way, and it's sad because you have police officers out here that aren't doing their job and then you have police officers out here that are doing their job and they get the bad rap."

May 26 cellphone video captured the officer as he hit Weinman multiple times in the head in front of onlookers, including her 1-year-old daughter, on a beach in Wildwood, New Jersey.

The 54-second video was taken by Alexis Hewitt, who has said was asleep on a beach towel next to Weinman when the commotion began. Hewitt awoke and started recording the encounter with her cellphone, she said, later posting the footage on Twitter. The video has been viewed more than 7 million times.

PHOTO: The Wildwood Police Department released body camera footage worn by officers involved in a May 26, 2018 incident in which a woman was repeatedly punched by one of the officers on a New Jersey beach.Wildwood Police
The Wildwood Police Department released body camera footage worn by officers involved in a May 26, 2018 incident in which a woman was repeatedly punched by one of the officers on a New Jersey beach.

The Wildwood Police Department later released footage from the body camera worn by the officer "directly involved." The footage shows the officer had been questioning Weinman about her age because she and her friends were allegedly in possession of opened containers of alcohol. Alcohol consumption is illegal on New Jersey beaches.

The footage shows the officer administering a blood-alcohol test to Weinman, which she said was negative. Police have not commented on any test results.

Weinman also said the containers of alcohol in their possession were sealed, contradicting the allegations against her.

The officer then asked Weinman several times for her last name, but she refused to divulge. She then attempted to walk away as he tried to handcuff her, the footage shows.

"Something in my gut was just telling me something wasn't right, you know, with the situation and I just knew in my rights that I didn't have to give them my name," Weinman said in the ”GMA” interview.

Weinman, who lives in Philadelphia, is on probation for a simple assault charge from 2016. When asked on “GMA” whether that was her reason for not giving the officer her name, she said, "No, not mainly."

PHOTO: The Wildwood Police Department released body camera footage worn by officers involved in a May 26, 2018 incident in which a woman was repeatedly punched by one of the officers on a New Jersey beach.Wildwood Police
The Wildwood Police Department released body camera footage worn by officers involved in a May 26, 2018 incident in which a woman was repeatedly punched by one of the officers on a New Jersey beach.

Police said Weinman "forcibly struck" the officer when he attempted to handcuff her, causing his body camera to shut off. It turned back on as the officer wrestled Weinman on the sand.

Weinman can be heard telling the officer to "get the f--- off," prompting him to respond, "That's it," and he begins hitting her.

During the ordeal, Weinman continued yelling expletives and complains the officer pulled her hair and choked her. She also screamed for someone named Matt, who is apparently her daughter's father.

As the officer placed the handcuffs on Weinman, who was still struggling against him, she told him, "My daughter is right there seeing this. I didn't do anything wrong."

Weinman told “GMA” she only fought back after the officer “attacked” her. She got sand in her mouth during the struggle and spat it out, with no intention of spitting at the officer, she said of another accusation against her.

Weinman was ultimately arrested and placed in a squad car. She faces charges of aggravated assault on a police officer, aggravated assault by spitting bodily fluids at/on a police officer, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstruction and possession of alcohol by a minor.

It’s unclear whether she has entered a plea.

PHOTO: Emily Wienman appears on Good Morning America, June 6, 2018.ABC News
Emily Wienman appears on "Good Morning America," June 6, 2018.

Weinman said she suffered injuries to her neck, back and head as a result of the incident and that the psychological aftermath has been "emotionally exhausting."

"She didn’t go out that Saturday looking for trouble. She went to the beach to have a fun time with her daughter," Weinman's attorney, Stephen Dicht, told "GMA" during the interview Wednesday morning. "They’re the police officers. They're the ones charged with protecting the public preserving the peace. But they fell apart that day."

After the body-camera footage was released, the Wildwood Police Department released the identities of three officers involved in the May 26 incident: Thomas Cannon, John Hillman and Robert Jordan. The part-time summer officers were placed on administrative duty until the police department and the Cape May Prosecutor's Office investigated, according to Wildwood Police Chief Robert Regalbuto.

"We hire a lot of officers that help us out in the summertime," Regalbuto told ABC News in a May 28 interview. "They might not have as much experience as some of the other guys, [but] we do our best with those officers, we do our best to train them properly. "If there are areas where we can make improvements, we're going to make improvements,” the police chief added.

The Cape May County Prosecutor's Office said Tuesday that it had completed its preliminary investigation into the incident and determined there was not enough evidence to warrant criminal charges against the arresting officers for use of excessive force. The police department probe is pending.

"I recognize that the video footage has raised a lot of questions regarding the officers’ actions,” Cape May prosecutor Jeffrey Sutherland said in a statement Tuesday. “A decision such as this is not based on emotion; it is based upon applying the proper laws, policies and directives that govern law enforcement.

"Members of the public should understand that no matter what your opinion is regarding the subject event, it is not based on a full review of the evidence."

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