By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Two separate investigations into Edward Cagney Mathews, the 45-year-old Mount Laurel resident whose racially-charged tirade went viral on social media earlier this week, have been launched following his arrest on Monday evening.
An independent investigation was launched Tuesday with the goal of finding information about any other similar incidents Mathews, who faces six charges of harassment, bias intimidation, and criminal trespassing, has been involved in. Additionally, Burlington County prosecutor Scott Coffina announced on Wednesday that his office will investigate “any and all” incidents involving Mathews and, specifically, how the police have handled any other incidents in the past.
“Based upon expressed community concerns, the Prosecutor’s Office will also undertake an investigation into the circumstances of the Mount Laurel Police Department’s handling of the incident to which they were called in Friday night, July 2,” Coffina said in his statement.
The video of Mathews’ tirade spread rapidly on social media, and he explicitly stated his home address and challenged community members to “come [expletive] see me” during his rant. Protesters took Mathews up on that challenge, as hundreds of people gathered outside of his home on Monday evening. Although the protest was mostly peaceful, some people did throw plastic bottles at Mathews as the police escorted him out of his home.
A number of New Jersey lawmakers, including Rep. Andy Kim (D-3), State Senator Troy Singleton, Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson, Coffina, and Mount Laurel Mayor Stephen Steglik released a joint statement Tuesday regarding the incident. They thanked community members for shedding light on this incident and announced the independent investigation into Mathews’ conduct.
“We fully understand the community’s frustration and anger as to what was witnessed in that video. We have heard from many residents that the behavior depicted by Mathews was not an isolated incident, but rather a part of a pattern of racial intimidation and hostility,” the statement reads. “Therefore, the Prosecutor’s Office is announcing that it will launch an independent investigation into any and all incidents involving Mathews in Mount Laurel.”
Mayor Steglik also released his own statement regarding Mount Laurel residents’ grievances with the police response to race-related incidents in the city. You can read the mayor’s full thoughts below:
Anyone with information or first-hand accounts of Mathews’ past behavior can contact the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office’s anonymous tip hotline via email by sending a message to email@example.com. Community members who were the victim of racism, harassment, or intimidation in Mount Laurel can also contact the Southern Burlington County NAACP chapter via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community members who attended the protest shared their own insight into Mathews’ conduct around the neighborhood. Lauren DeShields said that she had seen Mathews “many times,” and she “truly think[s] there’s something off with him.”
“I’ve seen this gentleman many times. I truly think there’s something off with him,” DeShields said during Monday’s protest. “But I’ve never seen it to this degree that it would get this bad. And it’s sad. I blame the police department more than anything. They could’ve stopped this a long time ago, and they haven’t.”
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