Cops in Vineland death named – first by ‘Anonymous’, then officials
The hacking group that calls itself Anonymous, following through on a video threat, revealed the names of two of the Vineland officers involved in a fatal arrest last week, and officials later Tuesday confirmed the names.
Chief Timothy Codispoti posted recordings of the 911 call and police dispatches from the arrest of Phillip White on the department’s Facebook page. An attorney representing the three officers involved in the incident confirmed their names, as did the chief, who was cited by NJ.com.
Police used a dog to restrain White, 32, of Vineland, after they said he tried to reach for one of the officers’ weapons on March 31.
White’s family and a rights activist, citing witnesses, allege that the officers punched and beat White before he was placed in an ambulance for respiratory distress. They also point to a bystander’s cellphone video which they say shows a police canine biting White as he lies on the ground.
On Tuesday, the names, home addresses, and phone numbers of officers Louis Platania and Jeffrey Travaline were posted on a website that has been used by Anonymous hackers.
Stuart Alterman, who said he has been hired by the police union to represent the three officers, called the release of their names by Anonymous “unfortunate,” saying the investigation should be allowed to play out.
“To interrupt the flow and to threaten the release of information is tantamount to extortion of law enforcement authorities,” Alterman said.
The police chief, according to NJ.com, said Platania and another officer who responded, Rich Janasiak, have been placed on administrative leave, and that Travaline was only providing assistance.
The chief did not respond to calls and e-mails from The Inquirer seeking comment.
A man who called 911 the day of the incident told a dispatcher that he saw a man in 100 block of Grape Street acting “crazy.”
“He’s screaming, I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with him,” the caller said.
At one point, an officer yelled over the radio that the suspect was “trying to grab my gun!” A few seconds later, another officer told responding units, “Slow down, he’s in cuffs.” A dog could be heard barking in the background.
White’s family and activist Walter Hudson, who met with the family the day White died, had been calling for police to release the officers’ names.
Hudson, chairman of the Salem County-based civil rights group National Awareness Alliance, called the disclosures Tuesday “the first step toward justice.”
But he criticized authorities for waiting until the video from Anonymous to disclose the names. “We shouldn’t have to go through those extreme measures,” Hudson said.
The video, which lasts two minutes and 21 seconds, demanded that two of the officers be placed on administrative leave, and that the canine officer be fired. The officers were not named in the video.
The video also threatened to hack into the websites of the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office and Vineland Police Department if they did not comply.
“Vineland Police Department and the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office have 24 hours to comply to our demands,” a masked figure speaking in a generic, computerized voice said in the video, which was posted Monday with no time stamp. “Or we will release the officers’ names involved, including all personal information for each officer.”
Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae and First Assistant Prosecutor Harold Shapiro said they were aware of the video.
“I can’t comment on the authenticity of the video,” Webb-McRae said by e-mail Tuesday morning, “but we are taking the threat seriously.”
Shapiro declined to say later in the day whether any official databases or other information had been breached.
The creators of the video appear to be tied to a Facebook group called “LulzSaints.” Their page states, “We are a radical group of hacktivist that perform various methods of penetration testing on various websites.”
The group claims to be part of the global network of hackers known as Anonymous
Re-posted from the Inquirer