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Caught on Cam: Longer Video of Arrest of Vineland Man Who Died in Police Custody

On the same day that the family of Phillip White laid him to rest, NBC10 obtained a longer cellphone video showing his arrest moments before his death.

White, 32, died while in police custody back on March 31. Officials say the ordeal began that day shortly before 11 a.m. when Vineland Police officers responded to a call for service for White on the 100 block of Grape Street in Vineland, New Jersey.

In a 911 recording released Tuesday, a caller tells the dispatcher that White is “freaking out,” “going crazy,” and “screaming.”

“He’s screaming up there,” the caller says. “I don’t know what the h*** is wrong with him.”

Officials said responding officers called for medical assistance for White who appeared to “be in respiratory distress.” White was also handcuffed, restrained and then placed in an emergency vehicle that traveled to the hospital while an officer was inside, according to officials.

At some point, White became unresponsive and medical personnel instituted CPR, according to investigators. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital. What remains in dispute are the events that occurred immediately before White’s death.

On Wednesday NBC10 obtained a third cellphone video from a witness showing officers arresting White. The latest and longest video of the incident appears to show a police dog biting White in the upper body. It also appears to show police officers striking White as he lies on the pavement.

One of the officers repeatedly tells White to roll over.

“He’s knocked out!” shouts the man recording the arrest. “He’s not even moving! Get that dog off of him!”

Witnesses, family members and friends say the officers used excessive force when apprehending White and claimed he was already restrained and unconscious.

“They punched him, stomped him, kicked him and then they let the dog out of the car," said Ricardo Garcia. "The dog bit him on his face and around his body. There's no call for that.”

Law enforcement sources disputed witness accounts however, telling NBC10 White engaged in a violent struggle with one of the officers after they called an ambulance for him. They also said at times White was combative and that he never lost consciousness while he was apprehended.

In the third cellphone video White appears to be moving slightly at the beginning as the police dog bites him and an officer strikes him. He then appears to be unconscious toward the end of the 90-second clip as the officers roll him over and handcuff him.

Stuart Alterman, an attorney for the Vineland Police Benevolent Association, watched the video and doesn’t believe it shows excessive force on the part of the officers.

“They’re not punching him,” Alterman said. “What they’re doing is they’re trying to restrain him and having him comply with being handcuffed.”

Alterman called the officers heroes and claimed the cellphone video only shows a small portion of an event that lasted for three minutes. Both Alterman and Vineland Police Chief Timothy Codispoti also said that at one point White reached for an officer’s gun before the camera started rolling.

“In fact there’s one video that’s out there and I haven’t seen it yet personally, but you can actually see Phillip White’s hand on the officer's weapon,” Alterman said.

Alterman claims a toxicology report will reveal White had drugs in his system at the time of his death.

“I expect it to state that Mr. White unfortunately had ingested PCP along with cocaine and a mix of other drugs which actually caused or contributed to a cardiac pulmonary event causing his death, not the Vineland Police officers,” Alterman said.

News of White’s death led to a threat from the hacker group Anonymous, who posted a video Monday claiming they would conduct a cyber-attack and reveal personal information on employees with the Vineland Police Department and Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office if the names of the arresting officers as well as dashcam video were not revealed.

On Tuesday, Anonymous posted the names of the officers involved in White’s arrest.

“I think it should be disturbing to all of us when anybody hides and then tries to impact the life of someone else,” Codispoti said. “I don’t think anybody in America likes that.”

Codispoti said the people in the neighborhood knew the officers, two of whom have been placed on paid administrative leave, and that the information released by the hackers was already public record that anyone can obtain. He also says there was no security breach.

“There’s no fear,” he said. “If they wanna take that, that group can take it anyway they want.”

White’s family paid for an independent medical examination. The toxicology and autopsy results are still pending.

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