By Todd Quinones
VINELAND, N.J., (CBS) — A man dies in the custody of police and his family and members of the community are demanding answers.
Off-camera an eyewitness tells CBS 3 Eyewitness News there was an altercation between police and the man who died.
Recorded scanner traffic indicates an officer yelled the man was trying to grab his gun.
(Emergency Responder:) “He’s got my gun, right now.”
(Emergency Responder:) (inaudible) “Subject under, got an apprehension. He tried to turn on me.”
On the 100 block of West Grape Street in Vineland a vigil marks the spot where the confrontation ended.
Civil rights activist Walter Hudson identifies the deceased as 32-year-old Phillip White, a father of three young children.
Hudson says indications are White was unarmed when he died in police custody Tuesday.
“How did he die in police custody with the violent police department,” said Hudson.
Vineland Police are calling this an “in-custody, non-shooting death.”
What led to White’s death isn’t exactly clear.
A man Eyewitness News spoke with says he saw the altercation unfold just before 1 p.m.
He tells Eyewitness News White was stumbling around a neighbor’s fence and an officer pulled up and asked White if he needed medical assistance.
“He started freaking out, he started like getting crazy, yelling.”
“He threw a roundhouse kick and he missed the officer and the officer obviously tackled him.”
He says the officer tackled White and then the officer’s partner and a police K9 subdued White.
“He didn’t want to listen. So they were telling him put your hands behind your back, put your hands behind your back. They were mushing his head to the floor.”
White’s mom, Hudson says is too distraught to speak publicly, but he says she wants answers.
“She’s a very hard working woman and things like that and it’s very painful to get a phone call that your son is dead,” said Hudson.
The Vineland Police Chief released a statement which reads in part:
“Our sincere thoughts and prayers are with the family of the deceased and with the Officers involved. I ask that everyone allow time for our justice system to now investigate this matter to its truthful conclusion.”
The Vineland Police Department is cooperating with the prosecutor’s office which is investigating the death.
The witness says White appeared to be alive when rushed to the hospital.
His official cause of death is not clear.