Mt. Laurel man faces more charges for terrorizing Black neighbors
More charges have been announced against Edward Cagney Mathews, a Mt. Laurel, N.J. man who went viral for terrorizing his neighbors earlier this year.
The new charges come as a review by the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office of the Mt. Laurel Police Department said that the department did not show Mathews any favoritism.
The new charges announced Tuesday stem from an incident in January when a threatening note was left on a Black neighbor’s vehicle. The vehicle was also smeared with feces. A handwriting analysis performed by the FBI connected Mathews, 45, to the note.
Mathews, who is white, now faces additional charges of bias intimidation and harassment. Bias intimidation is New Jersey’s version of hate crime charges. He was served with the new charges at the Burlington County Jail, where he has been held since his arrest back in July.
In addition to the new charges and offenses stemming from the viral moment, Mathews faces charges from a separate incident after a search of his home turned up evidence linked to the destruction of a vehicle in the neighborhood.
The board of the owner’s association at Essex Place is “very happy” about the additional charges leveled against Mathews, according to Gary Zangerle, the board’s lawyer.
“The more charges that they base upon the events that happened that the police can uncover and prove — the more the better,” Zangerle said.
Mathews achieved infamy after video of an incident from July 2 went viral.
In the video, he was attempting to make contact with his Black neighbor, who is on the community’s HOA board, when a bystander stepped in and took the brunt of a racist rant.
Multitudes showed up to Mathews’ doorstep in the Essex Place Condominium community after he said to “come see me” in the video after giving out his address.
Mathews’ will not be returning to the community. His residence is in the process of being sold, according to Zangerle.
“Edward Mathews was the problem in Essex Place”
As new charges were announced against Mathews, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office released a 24-page report of a review of how the Mt. Laurel Police Department responded to incidents involving Mathews.
Forty-three complaints were reviewed, including 40 between July 2016 and July 2021. Mt. Laurel Police responded to all but one incident. Mathews faces 22 charges, including offenses committed the day the viral video was recorded.
All of the people targeted by Mathews were Black.
The report found that officers in Mt. Laurel responded to 42 calls “during which no less than 39 officers responded and/or were officially engaged in investigative follow-up for matters concerning Edward Mathews.”
The bulk of the complaints were concentrated between April 2020 and July 2021, when complaints by residents – specifically three members of the HOA board – were high.
“Although Mathews was never charged with a crime or offense during the period of our review before July 2, we saw no indication that [Mt. Laurel Police] officers failed to investigate the complaints that were raised,” according to the report.
Officers were not only caring and empathetic, they went above and beyond their duties, the report concluded. Several attempts to establish video surveillance in the neighborhood were unsuccessful. The one time officers were able to install a camera in Nov. 2020, no incidents were recorded.
The report concluded there was no evidence that Mathews had a “friendly” relationship or given special treatment by Mt. Laurel Police, as some have alleged. The accusations of favoritism arose from Mathews not being arrested until three days after the original incident went viral.
Quite the opposite, according to the report, which dismissed Mathews’ assertion as “nothing more than self-bravado by Mathews.”
“Our review identified several instances where Mathews was uncooperative, hostile, or verbally abusive towards [Mt. Laurel Police] officers, including twice on July 2, 2021.”
The report also concluded that officers did not fail to investigate incidents when they were reported, but “the true problem” would have been recognized sooner had officers took “a problem-oriented focus” on the series of events, better communicated, and took a more assertive intervention with Mathews.
“For the victims, and for some members of the public who learned of the number of unresolved incidents reported to [Mt. Laurel Police,] the reckoning for Mathews took too long,” the report concluded.
The report also does not dispute comments some posited that had Mathews been a person of color, police “surely would have subdued the subject with force and immediately placed him under arrest.” The report stated, “We cannot deny, historically, there have been instances of mistreatment of people of color by the police, including here in Burlington County.”
The report said the only silver lining is that Mathews’ rants “allowed the justice system finally to intervene and hold him accountable for his conduct, not just that day, but for several incidents.”
But the incidents were not a priority to police, according to Marcus Sibley, president of the Southern Burlington County NAACP who called the report “bull.”
“I can't believe anything that people say about them not being complicit, when magically, when something goes viral, all of a sudden people can find all these charges,” he said referring to the department.
The organization had been compiling information for a survey of how police departments in the county have been treating residents. Sibley said the report from the prosecutor’s office does not line up with responses they have received.
“We have direct accounts from Mt. Laurel from not just the Cagney situation,” he added, “but multiple situations where police officers were complicit and either not doing their job or actively being involved with the discrimination themselves.”
A request for an interview with the prosecutor’s office was declined.