July 14, 2024
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Teaneck Police Charge Water Gun Shooters With Harassment

Last Friday, Matthew A. Davis, 21, of Teaneck, Michael A. Davis, 23, of Teaneck and Tyrell N. Culver, 21, of Teaneck, were arrested. Each was charged with two counts of harassment, stemming from their shooting water guns at two Jewish men departing their synagogue after Friday evening services. The perpetrators squirted water from a moving car on July 12 on Perry Lane, near Young Israel of Teaneck. The announcement was made in a press release from Teaneck Chief of Police Glenn M. O’Reilly.

“On Friday, July 12, at approximately 9:11 p.m., officers from the Teaneck Police Department responded to [a private address] in Teaneck on a report of a possible bias incident,” read a statement released by the police department.

“At approximately 9:00 p.m., services had concluded and the victim began walking home. As the victim was walking north on Perry Lane, he observed a silver Honda Accord also traveling north on Perry Lane. As the vehicle passed the victim, a stream of water was sprayed from inside the vehicle striking him as well as another member of the congregation.” This differs from the account published in The Jewish Link (https://tinyurl.com/y6gaec2t) with interviews of both victims, one of whom preferred not to be named. In that report, it was indicated that one victim was sprayed while the vehicle was driving away from the Perry Lane synagogue, and the other victim was sprayed during the car’s return to the dead-end street.

The police reported that one of the victims shouted at the vehicle to stop and that one of the vehicle occupants made an anti-Semitic comment prior to the vehicle fleeing the scene. The victim then went home and provided the police with a description of the vehicle and its license number.

Teaneck police found the car at the residence of Matthew A. Davis and Michael A. Davis, who along with Tyrell Culver, ultimately admitted to spraying both victims with water, according to the police statement. “Through further investigation it was unable to be conclusively confirmed that an anti-Semitic statement was made during the incident. In consultation with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, it was determined that there was insufficient evidence for a charge of bias intimidation. Subsequently, each of the actors was charged with two counts of harassment in violation of 2C:33-4c.”

Community Reacts

The Young Israel of Teaneck made the following statement to the media: “The incident has been reported to the authorities. We have always had a great relationship with all of our neighbors of all backgrounds. At this time we do not know whether the incident was anti-Semitic in nature. We will cooperate with the authorities’ investigation.”

After the charges of harassment were announced, some residents felt it was appropriate, while others felt that the charges were not consistent with the events that occurred. Some said they feel that a misdemeanor harassment charge would not be a significant enough deterrent to prevent future assault on Teaneck’s vibrant Jewish community. Many reactions were posted to Facebook following Deputy Mayor Elie Katz’s announcement of the arrests and the associated charges.

Katz shared his view: “I am diligently working behind the scenes and trying to help the community resolve this so they don’t have to be fearful to go to any house of worship. I am being careful not to have any conversations or comments that may taint the case in any way by the strong feelings people have from multiple sides. I am on the side of making sure that these things are aggressively followed up and that justice is done.”

Shmuel Herman, one of the two victims of the water gun shooting and the victim who made the initial call to police, made the following public statement on Facebook, thanking the Teaneck community for its support: “The last week and a half has been very stressful for me and my family following the attack in front of the Young Israel of Teaneck on the evening of Friday, July 12th. While I too am frustrated with the decision to not classify this attack as a bias crime, I remain confident and hopeful that a judge will not simply issue a ‘slap on the wrist’ but will recognize the severity of the crime perpetrated by these adult men. This is particularly a concern given the heightened sensitivity and apprehension that exists now for all Americans attending houses of worship. A clear message must be conveyed that all people, no matter their faith, must be allowed to practice their religion in peace and without fear.”

Other community members felt significantly more concerned, and expressed their views as well. “The prosecutor and the police chief should be ashamed at how they are charging these criminals. I guarantee if this incident occurred at an African American church and someone yelled ‘the N word’ at the people they attacked, there would be an uprising in Teaneck and federal law enforcement intervention,” wrote Teaneck resident Eric Orgen on Facebook.

Teaneck Deputy Mayor and JLNJ co-publisher Mark (Mendy) Schwartz expressed his agreement with Orgen. “Nobody is rolling up onto a back street of Teaneck on a Friday right after services get out, by coincidence, with a water gun and shooting it at congregants without that being labeled a bias crime on my watch. I’ve seen how this goes down before, and it won’t go down without a fight now,” he said. Schwartz explained he has asked for the Teaneck town manager to organize a meeting with the Bergen County prosecutor, the Teaneck police chief and elected officials to discuss this case.

Herman praised Deputy Mayor Katz’s knowledge of the township and added, “He has been a staunch advocate for community safety, and was the reason that this investigation was taken seriously from day one and has been working diligently and in daily communication with me, the township manager and with other council members regarding this case. Please understand that in an ongoing investigation we may not have all of the details and therefore cannot make judgments about what is perceived to be unfair silence from any of our elected officials and/or township employees. I, for one, have faith in the system and will keep you posted with details regarding court dates and other developments,” wrote Herman.

By Elizabeth Kratz

 

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