Officer Caught Beating Schizophrenic Says He Did Nothing Wrong

N.J. cops says his actions were justified and he did what he was trained to do.

June 6, 2009, 3:49 PM

June 11, 2009— -- A suspended Passaic, N.J., police officer who was caught on tape beating a schizophrenic man is defending his behavior, claiming he was responding in the way that his training dictated.

"I did what was proper," Officer Joseph R. Rios III said at a press conference Wednesday.

The alleged beating of Ronnie Holloway by Rios on May 29 was recorded on a video surveillance camera outside a restaurant where the incident took place.

Rios maintains that he did nothing wrong and was responding to the situation in accordance with his training.

"I did what I was trained to do under circumstances that existed at the time," said Rios. "I stand by my actions."

Rios' lawyer, Anthony Iacullo, told that portions of the surveillance video that have not been viewed by the public would prove his client's actions were justified.

"What's on the video that everyone is seeing is a portion of what took place on that day," said Iacullo. "There were communications by Mr. Holloway and the officer as well as an earlier encounter during the day between the men that wasn't on the tape."

"There are portions of the encounter that were caught on tape that aren't being shown to the public," said Iacullo.

"What is being shown on TV is snippets, not the entire tape," he said.

Asked why he thinks the entire video has not been shown, Iacollo said, "I have no idea."

It's unclear whether the video provided to the media by the Passaic police is the entire tape of the incident. Calls to the police weren't immediately returned.

Iacullo declined to comment on the specifics of the video he says vindicates his client. He said that he believes the portion of the tape is in the possession of the Passaic County Prosecutor's office.

Calls made to the Passaic County Prosecutor's office were not immediately returned.

Iacullo confirmed that Rios has been suspended from the police department without pay pending the ongoing investigation.

Holloway's lawyer Nancy Lucianna did not immediately respond to messages left by, but in an interview with ABC News' affiliate WABC she said that in the police reports Rios is never documented as being threatened. She added that nothing could have warranted what is seen in this video.

Holloway himself told WABC, "I didn't threaten anyone."

Lucianna is calling for a federal investigation into the alleged beating and the Passaic Police Department.

In an interview with earlier this week, Lucianna, of Fort Lee, N.J. said that her client was known by the local Passaic police officers.

"These cops know him," said Lucianna. "He's lived in the town for 25 years, does the same routine every night. He goes out after dinner, takes a walk, and paces back and forth."

Lucianna said Holloway, who is a "soft-spoken, almost childlike" man who lives with his mother, has never had a police record of any kind.

"He is compliant and calm with medication," she told Holloway is currently taking medication for his schizophrenia.

His mother, Betty Holloway, said that without the surveillance tape, the truth about what happened would never have been revealed.

She said a female officer at the scene never tried to stop the officer as her son was beaten to the ground. Both Holloways deny he had a drug problem.

Betty Holloway said her son had always respected police before this incident. "Now, he is confused and doesn't know what to think," she told WABC.

The Holloways have filed a complaint with the police's internal affairs department demanding an investigation. They are also asking prosecutors to bring criminal charges against Rios and plan to file a suit against the department for police brutality.

Family Demands Officer Suspension

"We are looking for the police department to suspend the officer pending an investigation," said Lucianna. "And I don't think this will take too much time -- maybe 15 minutes -- because the videotape speaks for itself. We don't want this to happen to anyone else."

One of the demonstrators at Saturday's rally -- Shawanna Barksdale of Passaic -- claims she, too, had been pulled from her car two years ago by Rios in a case of mistaken identity.

"I'm really upset this happened again," said Barksdale, a 30-year-old phlebotomist with three children, ages 15, 9 and 2. "It's still bad enough to be emotional."

She said Rios had jumped into her barely stopped car as she was pulling over to assist her sister, who was parked by the side of the road.

"He just attacked me," she told "He jumped in my vehicle and dragged me out by my hair. I still had my foot on the brake and wasn't even parked. He told me to get out with no explanation why, then hit me and cussed at me."

Barksdale said she was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and obstruction with a vehicle. Those charges were later dropped, but no action was taken against the officer.

"I remember that," said her cousin, Khadijah Barksdale, 15, who was babysitting for the three children while Shawanna Barksdale was at the rally. "He hit her, and she had to defend herself any way she could."

"I think [the officer] should be charged with something and fired," she said. "That's just not right because he has a gun on him and all the power. He's a policeman. He shouldn't be hurting anybody."

Holloway was charged with "wandering or loitering or remaining for the purpose of obtaining drugs."

Video surveillance was set up at Lawrence's Grill and Bar to catch criminal activity. On May 29, the day of the alleged beating, the shift manager was told there had been a police incident outside and reviewed the tape.

The tape, according to Holloway's lawyer, was sent to the Passaic Police Department, "who did nothing about it."

The tape was eventually made public by the Bergen County Record newspaper.