A security guard was charged with grievous bodily harm in his security dog assaulting a guest at a popular South Jersey restaurant and nightclub, Gloucester County Attorney Christine A. Hoffman said Wednesday.
Steven T. Rudy, 33, of Virginia, was charged in connection with the July 29 incident at the Adelphia Restaurant in Deptford, the prosecutor said. Details of his whereabouts were not immediately available, and it is unclear why he worked in New Jersey.
The victim, Khalif Hunter, 26, from Burlington City, who is a black man, said he was pinned to the floor with one knee in his abdomen by a white guard who ordered a trained security dog to repeatedly bite him.
“This is definitely a good start,” Hunter said of the allegations against Rudy. He declined to comment further, citing potential litigation.
While authorities have said it is being investigated since the incident, civil rights activists and protesters demonstrated outside the restaurant, urging prosecutors to bring charges.
Hoffman said authorities have found a likely cause for a criminal complaint against Rudy and that the investigation is still ongoing. She did not disclose the name of the private, extra-state security company that, according to his lawyer Joseph P. Grimes, has quit the restaurant.
Rudy, who has addresses in Lorton and Franklin, Virginia, was unavailable for comment.
“It was absolutely necessary and appropriate to conduct this investigation at a time when the use of force and the circumstances in which force is used are an issue of widespread public discussion and concern,” Hoffman said in the statement. “The patience of our local communities and stakeholders has been of great benefit while we have conducted our investigation.”
The Gloucester County Chapter of the NAACP said it welcomed the charges. The group argued that they were justified because of the use of force captured on a video that went viral.
“We strongly condemn the egregious and unnecessary actions taken by the guards against Mr. Khalif Hunter,” said NAACP President Loretta Winters. “The injuries this young man has sustained are worrying.”
The attack occurred last Thursday at around 1 a.m. in the parking lot during a scuffle between Hunter and the then-unidentified security guard over Hunter’s baseball cap. The restaurant’s dress code forbids hats and Hunter initially refused to take his off. In an obvious partial video of the episode, Hunter is seen walking away and overheard the cop calling a racist.
Hunter said the guard held him down with one knee in his abdomen and ordered a trained security dog to bite him repeatedly. Hunter grabbed the dog’s leash to defend himself.
According to Hunter, the guard gave the dog an order – “Live bite!” – several times because Hunter was already lying on his stomach and not moving. That was not recorded in the video. Hunter said he was bitten three times in the lower right calf and once in the right inner thigh.
“Adelphia regrets every incident that someone is injured on their premises,” said Grimes, the restaurant’s attorney, in a statement Wednesday evening. He said a “new security company has been set up that does not want to include dog protection in their safety plan”.
Protesters demonstrated almost daily outside the restaurant on Clements Bridge Road across from Deptford Mall. They put up signs that read “Honk if Black Lives Matter” and raised their fists when drivers honked their horns. They returned Wednesday evening. Camden activist Gary Frazier said his group known as The Movement has apologized to Adelphia’s owner.
“We wanted the charges,” said Frazier, 45. “At the same time, our focus is on this owner.”
Grimes said Hunter’s medical bills were paid by an insurance company. The restaurant owners had no intention of apologizing, he said.
“Adelphia has no reason to apologize,” said Grimes. “Adelphia didn’t do anything wrong.”
In his statement on Wednesday evening, Grimes said: “Indictments of fault and indemnities cannot be resolved in the appropriate place, the courts, not on the street.”
Adelphia recently hired a private security firm to handle the large crowds that popped up at the restaurant as it fully reopened after the pandemic shut down, Grimes said.
Although there is no evidence that Rudy is or was a sworn public servant, then Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal banned law enforcement agencies in December from using dogs against anyone who resisted arrest and posed no threat. The revised Use of Force Policy prohibits “the visual presence of dogs to control the crowd during peaceful demonstrations, except in response to death threats or grievous bodily harm. Police dogs are allowed during security screening demonstrations or rallies to search for explosives.
Grewal said civil rights activists called for policy changes, calling for police dogs to be used against people of color during peaceful protests in the 1960s. According to a study cited by Grewal, a trained police dog can bite with a force of up to 1,200 pounds per square inch, enough to crush a bone.
Hunter, who works for Aveanna Healthcare in Trevose, plans and opens home nursing cases, said the attack would have a lasting effect on him. Hunter said he had three vaccinations for rabies and tetanus but didn’t need any sutures. His lawyer, Simon Haileab from Wapner Newman, did not respond to a message.
»READ MORE: NAACP Calls for State Investigation into Fatal Shootout at Deptford Strip Mall
In 2017, the NAACP condemned another episode in Adelphia that involved a costume at a Halloween party that contained a noose, a symbol of intimidation for black Americans, that ended in a photo that went viral on social media became. It resulted in a solution between civil rights activists and the restaurant.