By Todd Quinones
VINELAND, N.J., (CBS) — A South Jersey police chief is speaking out for the first time since new cell phone video emerged capturing the arrest of a man who died in police custody.
This new video shows the seconds before the police K9 latched on to 32-year-old Phillip White.
One officer was on top of White and appears to punch him.
Then the K9 bites him before he was handcuffed.
White later died while in police custody after going into respiratory distress.
Friends point to this video as evidence police used excessive force.
“They beat that man for no reason. He did nothing wrong. Nothing,” said friend Miguel Martinez.
Vineland Police Chief Timothy Codispoti says the video doesn’t show the violent struggle White had with officers beforehand and contends force was needed.
“Mr. White is only subdued after K9 is deployed and they are able to handcuff him,” said Chief Codispoti.
(Emergency Responder:) “He’s got my gun, right now.”
Recorded scanner traffic indicates the officer believed White was trying to grab his service weapon during the altercation.
Vineland police were responding to a 911 call that White was erratic and screaming on Grape Street on the morning of March 31.
Off camera an eyewitness told CBS 3 Eyewitness News White tried to first kick an officer after they asked if he needed medical attention.
“He started freaking out, he started like getting crazy, yelling.”
Stewart Alterman is the lawyer representing the Vineland Police Officers Union.
From his Marlton office he told CBS 3 Eyewitness News he believes preliminary reports will indicate White did not die of blunt force trauma or from any physical injury.
“I also expect the toxicology report to demonstrate that he had ingested a mixture of unlawful or illegal narcotics to it PCP, cocaine and perhaps other drugs as well, a combination that is normally lethal,” said Alterman.
The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating this case.
It could be another couple of weeks before the final autopsy and toxicology reports are released.