A veteran Ocean City police officer has been charged with aggravated sexual assault following an investigation into a reported sexual relationship with a juvenile, Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey H. Sutherland said Wednesday.
Sgt. Tyrone Rolls, 50, of Marmora in Upper Township, was arrested Wednesday after turning himself into the Prosecutor’s Office, Sutherland said in a news release.
In addition to the aggravated sexual assault charge, Rolls faces one count of sexual assault, two counts of official misconduct, one count of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of aggravated assault of a domestic violence victim.
Ocean City spokesperson Doug Bergen said Rolls is on administrative leave.
“His employment status will be determined after the city receives the official charges,” Bergen said.
According to records obtained through an Open Public Records Act request, a complaint was made against Rolls in January when the victim, now 20, came forward after an alleged domestic incident during which, she said, Rolls hit her in the face, knocking her to the ground.
“She stated she stayed down on the ground out of fear he would hit her again,” the police report reads. “When he did strike her, he stated, ‘Now you know what it is like to be hit.’”
The victim told police the two began a sexual relationship when she was 15. According to the report, the victim states she and Rolls had their first sexual encounter inside Rolls’ police vehicle while he was on duty, before her first day of her sophomore year at Ocean City High School. She said the sexual relationship, which included intercourse, continued through her senior year of high school, including at his Marmora residence.
The Prosecutor’s Office said the investigation is ongoing.
Rolls was a respected member of the Ocean City Police Department and of the Ocean City community, serving as a youth mentor. He has been a police officer in New Jersey for 24 years and, according to state pension records, earns a salary of $129,364. In addition, he was the co-owner of a local youth sports training business called RA Development Academy, the website and social media pages for which are no longer active.
Last summer, Rolls made headlines after giving an impassioned speech during a Black Lives Matter protest in the city, calling for more education on the history and treatment of Black people in the United States.
Prior to that, Rolls had been recognized by several city organizations for his community work, including the Ocean City High School Alumni Association and the Knights of Columbus. He also has received the city’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recognition Award and the Lonnie Allgood “Dreams for Kids” Community Hero Award, was presented a key to the city from Mayor Jay Gillian and has been featured in a display at the Ocean City Historical Museum.
Rolls is in the Cape May County jail pending court. He faces up to 20 years in prison on the most severe charges.
Anyone with additional information related to this investigation can call the Prosecutor’s Office at 609-465-1135 or submit tips at cmcsheriff.net, or call Cape May County Crime Stoppers at 609-889-3597.
ATLANTIC CITY — City officials, members of law enforcement and local merchants are scrambling to address Boardwalk safety in the resort following two incidents in the past week.
The topic was thrust into the spotlight last Thursday after Mehmood Ansari, 65, died following an altercation with two juveniles at City Souvenirs, his store in the 1500 block of the Boardwalk.
Earlier this week, officials had called a special meeting for Thursday morning intending to find solutions to address the crime and safety issues, including increasing the police presence on the Boardwalk after another incident occurred exacerbating the already volatile air of fear and mistrust.
On Monday, store clerk Malik Awais, 26, of Egg Harbor Township, was charged with falsely reporting to law enforcement authorities after calling 911 saying H&A Fashions, in the 1400 block of the Boardwalk, had been robbed.
“It was ultimately found that the alleged crime did not occur and the report was fabricated,” said interim police Officer-in-Charge James Sarkos.
Council President George Tibbitt said members of the Atlantic City Merchants Association are devastated by this “fabrication.”
Amer Kashmiri, the association’s president, said he couldn’t comment on the arrest but said the group would continue working with Tibbitt and other city officials on a plan to make the Boardwalk safer.
Both incidents prompted Mayor Marty Small Sr. to hold his own news conference Wednesday afternoon.
“Incidents like this will not be tolerated in the great city of Atlantic City,” Small said of Monday’s alleged false report. “And incidents that happened on the 1500 block of the Boardwalk that unfortunately resulted in a fatality will not be tolerated, and the people will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
Small said the city will “dedicate all of the resources necessary” to ensure safety on the Boardwalk, adding the city needs police everywhere.
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Stockton Associate Professor Rain Ross’ student dancers will create, rehearse and perform on the Atlantic City Boardwalk on Friday.
“That’s something that we’re working on, and it started this morning,” Small said. “We promoted nine full-time police officers from Class II.”
Additionally, 15 part-time, Class II police officers will be sworn in Friday, he said.
Small cited racism as a possible catalyst for the latest incident.
“To call the police, to put pictures on social media and to say that young African-American children repeated the incident again won’t be tolerated,” Small said. “This is not a race war. We’re not going to let Atlantic City become (like) these other cities that have these issues. ... It’s not a white city, it’s not a Black city, we are all one city working together.”
In the meantime, store owners for months have said they felt vulnerable to shoplifting and harassment due to what they say is a lack of police protection.
“There are no police on this Boardwalk,” Sally Mitchell, who owns a palm reading business in the 1500 block of the Boardwalk, said Tuesday. “We need police protection because without our businesses, this Boardwalk would be nothing.”
Mitchell was at her store last Thursday when Ansari collapsed.
“I can still hear his sons screaming,” Mitchell said. “I feel so sad for them because all they needed was police protection.”
Police responded to City Souvenirs at 7:41 p.m. Thursday for a report of a male with a knife. Personnel at the police Surveillance Center advised officers that multiple juveniles were damaging the store and assaulting people, according to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office. While attempting to steal items, a 12-year-old brandished a knife and threatened the store owner.
Responding officers arrested the 12-year-old and a 14-year-old. Shortly after the arrival of officers, Ansari collapsed and stopped breathing, the Prosecutor’s Office said. After several people attempted CPR, Ansari was transported to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus, where he was pronounced dead.
The 12-year-old is charged with two counts of robbery, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, simple assault, shoplifting, terroristic threats and conspiracy. He was brought to the Harborfields Juvenile Detention Facility in Egg Harbor City.
The 14-year-old is charged with robbery, simple assault, shoplifting and conspiracy. She was released to a parent’s custody pending court.
Nabeel Azem, whose family owns a clothing store near South Carolina Avenue, echoed Mitchell’s concerns.
“Every block they need at least one cop,” Azem said. “So if there are people trying to be trouble makers, they (police) will be there to help us because I don’t see a lot of cops here on the Boardwalk.”
On Tuesday, Tom Forkin, a Republican who is challenging incumbent Small in the mayoral race, announced a proposal to bring three new police substations to the Boardwalk and to revise community policing practices.
Forkin has called for the immediate hiring of 150 police officers, which he said would be paid for with a portion of the luxury, room and parking tax.
“Simply put, people will not come to Atlantic City if they do not feel safe,” Forkin said in a statement. “Our present Mayor and Council have been complicit with the state takeover which has been a train wreck for the residents and tourism industry here in Atlantic City and the region. The gross understaffing of our ACPD & ACFD is a perfect example of that.”
During Wednesday’s news conference, Small said he and Sarkos believe in community policing and the use of substations.
A Toms River family removed from a Spirit Airlines flight from Orlando, Florida, to Atlantic City on Monday is demanding an apology for the way it was treated by flight attendants.
During a virtual news conference Tuesday with Lakewood special education attorney Michael Inzelbuch, Avital Eisenberg claimed the staff showed a “lack of compassion and humanity.”
Spirit said the family was removed as a result of the adults’ failure to comply with mask mandates.
On Monday, the Eisenbergs accused Spirit attendants of removing them because their 2-year-old daughter was not wearing a mask while eating yogurt. They were later placed on a different flight to return home.
“I’ve experienced people who have shown discrimination toward special needs children,” said Eisenberg, who also has a nonverbal 7-year-old son and is seven months pregnant with another child, “but I’ve never, ever felt like the way I did on that flight.”
The U.S. Economic Development Authority has awarded a $3 million grant to Atlantic County toward construction of a second building at the National Aviation Research and Technology Park (NARTP) in Egg Harbor Township.
Eisenberg added the family’s packing routine includes fully charging three phones for her son to use throughout the day and during a flight. As a result of their removal from the plane, the phone batteries eventually ran out and he was shaking when they got back home.
Video footage from the incident was posted on social media and shows a member of the flight crew speaking to a man and a woman in their seats. The man, Avital’s husband, Ari, is seen pulling down his mask to talk to the crew member, and Avital, who is wearing a mask, has a toddler on her lap who is eating yogurt without a mask.
Spirit responded to the video, claiming it was misinterpreted.
“We’re aware of incorrect information circulating about Spirit Airlines Flight 138 from Orlando to Atlantic City,” Spirit spokesperson Erik Hofmeyer said Monday. “The flight was delayed due to the adults in a party not complying with the federal mask requirement.”
Inzelbuch said there was no proof of Spirit’s claim.
“There is no allegation at this point,” said the attorney, who represented the family in a previous case involving their son. “Spirit tried it yesterday, and then they quickly withdrew (the claim) because there are videos upon videos. This is unacceptable.”
Inzelbuch played the video during the news conference, and Avital Eisenberg described the events leading up to the video, saying a flight attendant asked why her son wasn’t wearing a mask as they were boarding. She explained that he deals with seizures and is uncomfortable in planes, and didn’t want to risk triggering another seizure by covering his face. Despite this explanation, she said the attendant gave her a blank stare and simply said, “I asked you where’s his mask.”
The attendant gave the family a pair of masks for their children, but both fought off attempts by the parents to put them on. When they were seated, a second attendant asked about the masks. Ari Eisenberg explained their son’s condition, and the attendant acknowledged it and encouraged the parents to try getting a mask on their daughter.
According to Hofmeyer, the matter was eventually resolved once the family boarded the other flight later that day.
“We have allowed the guests to continue on the flight to their destination after assurances of compliance, and the flight is currently en route,” he said Monday afternoon. “The safety of our guests and team members is our top priority.”
Still, the family would like the airline company to admit fault or face legal action.
“We’re not asking for boycotts. We’re not asking for marches,” Inzelbuch said Tuesday. “We are asking at this point for two words: I’m sorry.”
Lawn mowers, Trump 2020 flags, COVID-19 masks and a check for $81 were just a few of the oddities found on New Jersey beaches last year, according to Clean Ocean Action.
The group, which performs annual beach sweeps, revealed the results of its fall 2020 audit of debris in a virtual news conference Wednesday.
Among those who spoke were representatives from Clean Ocean Action, state Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, Somerset, local beach patrol captains and sponsors. Wednesday’s event highlighted data that showed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the most recent sweep as well as records from 35 years of beach sweeps along the state’s coastline.
Clean Ocean Action Executive Director Cindy Zipf said the data often reveal trends. For example, crack vials, cigarette butts and cassette tapes in the ’80s and ’90s have been replaced by flash drives, mini-drug bags for illegal substances, e-cigarettes and personal protective equipment as common beach waste. But plastics remain the biggest environmental threat, although strides are being made.
“Plastic was becoming sort of a global plague,” said Zipf. “There finally seemed to be a shift in really working to get some legislation passed. We’re proud that New Jersey has become the nation’s leader on fighting plastic and plastic use.”
COA Watershed Program Coordinator Alison Jones said volunteers found enough PPE on the beach last fall that it earned its own category when beach debris is catalogued.
Much of the event was dominated by numbers and data. According to Jones and Zipf, 185,221 pieces of debris were collected; 3,746 volunteers pitched in; 60 beaches were swept; and 1,113 pieces of PPE were logged, including 680 masks, 92 disposable wipes and 341 pieces.
“Be responsible and wear PPE,” said Zipf during the news conference. “But be responsible and manage it.”
Clean Ocean Action also reported that 79% of the debris collected on the beach consisted of plastic items, including foam. Since 2015, the top three items found on New Jersey’s beaches have been plastic cups and lids, plastic pieces and food wrappers from snacks like candy bars.
Smith, who chairs the Senate’s Environment and Energy Committee, praised Clean Ocean Action for providing information the past 35 years that has led to new legislation aimed at curbing trash along the ocean.
“I will tell you that the COA’s work, doing the beach sweeps every year, was part of the momentum and ultimately the persuasion of the Legislature that we had to adopt the strongest bill in America. That is the single use paper bag, plastic bag and foam ban, which kicks in at 100% in May of 2022,” said Smith. “This is a huge, huge piece of legislation.”
Other legislation highlighted Wednesday takes aim at improving recycling and banning balloon releases. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020, a federal bill that focuses on waste and recycling collection, was also mentioned.
Clean Ocean Action also asked volunteers to attend one of their 60 beach cleanup locations April 17, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., to give the beaches a “good, clean sweep” before the summer.
For more information on the upcoming beach cleanups, visit cleanoceanaction.org.
Volunteers are asked to bring their own bucket, work gloves and closed-toe, hard-soled shoes. COVID-19 safety protocols will be in effect during all beach sweeps, including masks and social distancing.
“I look forward to the day that there are no more beach sweeps, because there won’t be a need for them,” said Smith. “I look forward to greener and cleaner days ahead.”