The Justice Department on Wednesday charged a former police chief with a hate crime and alleged he said black people are “like ISIS,” that they should all be shot, and he would “like to be on the firing squad.”
Frank Nucera, the ex-chief of Bordentown Township, New Jersey’s police force, is accused of terrorizing black people in predominantly white town, where he allegedly slammed a handcuffed black teen’s head into a metal door jam. At least one subordinate told investigators that he feared retaliation if he reported the chief’s actions. But over the course of two years, another officer began making secret recordings, which captured Nucera making racial slurs and fantasizing shooting or siccing dogs on black teens.
Nucera, whose lawyer did not return a Thursday request for comment, is charged with a hate crime and deprivation of rights in connection to his alleged attack on the black teenager at the hotel.
The crime allegedly began after a Bordentown hotel called police in September 2016 about an incident in the swimming pool. Two black teenagers were swimming, but hadn’t paid for a room, the hotel reported. After a confrontation, police ended up pepper spraying the 18-year-old boy, and placing handcuffs on him and the 16-year-old girl. On the walk out of the hotel, the young man stopped walking, although “he was not kicking or struggling,” the complaint reads.
Nucera allegedly approached the handcuffed teen from behind, grabbed his head and slammed it into a metal doorjam. One officer who witnessed the incident told investigators he heard the teen’s head “make a loud thud as it hit the doorjamb.” Another officer told investigators he believed the act to constitute excessive force, but did not report it out of fear of retaliation from Nucera.
After the pair had been processed at the county jail, Nucera resumed complaining about them, and black people in general, according to transcripts of recordings including in the criminal complaint.
“I’m fucking tired of them man. I’ll tell you what, it’s gonna get to the point where I could shoot one of these motherfuckers. And that n----r bitch lady, she almost got it,” Nucera said, apparently of the minor girl. “Fucking nipple hanging bitch. I’m so tired of them man.”
Bordentown is nearly 75 percent white, prompting Nucera to ask a subordinate “these fucking people. Where are they from?”
He continued to talk about keeping black people out of Bordentown.
“Stay the fuck out of Bordentown. Now they can go home and tell them, you can go to Bordentown,” he said, according to the transcript. “It would have been nice if that fucking dog could have come up,” he said of a police dog. “That dog, that dog will stop anything right then and there [makes dog noises]. I’m telling you. You’d have seen two fucking n----s stop dead in their tracks. I love that when they do that. I just love that.”
The 2016 incident wasn’t the first time Nucera was accused of using police dogs to intimidate black people. According to the complaint, Nucera would order officers to bring the dogs to certain high school basketball games, where the police force provided security. The dogs, which police stationed at the gymnasium entrance, were meant “to intimidate African American patrons,” the complaint alleges.
In another recorded conversation, Nucera instructs an officer to walk a police dog through an apartment complex, apparently to intimidate them. “Let these fucking moulies [a racial slur] see him. Let ‘em see him. I don’t care,” Nucera said, according to the transcript.
Some of Nucera’s most graphic recorded remarks came during a conversation in November 2015, when Nucera discussed a black man whom he believed had slashed the tires on a police vehicle.
“I wish that n----r would come back from Trenton and give me a reason to put my hands on him, I’m tired of ‘em,” he said, according to the transcript. “These n----s are like ISIS, they have no value. They should line them all up and mow ‘em down. I’d like to be on the firing squad, I could do it. I used to think about if I could shoot someone or not, I could do it, I’m tired of it.”
But the former police chief appeared to have been in trouble as early as January this year, when he abruptly retired from the force, where he had served 32 years, seven of which were as chief. Nucera simultaneously took a leave of absence as Bordentown Township’s administrator, a role he held alongside his police job.
“You will get no comments from me,” Bordentown Township Mayor Steve Benowitz told the Trentonian after the January resignations. “I cannot discuss it because it’s a personnel matter.”
Anonymous sources told the outlet that Nucera was under federal investigation. “I’m not telling you anything. Goodbye,” Benowitz said before hanging up on the Trentonian.
And even earlier, details of stories involving Nucera had raised eyebrows. In May 2014, Nucera took a bullet in the leg in what was ambiguously described an incident involving a child in a tax collector’s office. The child, described as a preteen, reportedly got his hand on Nucera’s holstered gun and fired a shot into the police chief’s leg.
“Township officials were told by legal counsel not to publicly talk about the incident,” Philadelphia’s Action News 6 reported at the time.
Bordentown police chiefs have a record of ending up on the wrong side of the law. In neighboring Bordentown City, which has its own police force, former police chief Philip Castagna was convicted of trying to have his estranged wife killed in a murder-for hire scheme. Castanga was sentenced to 17 years in prison in 2011, a sentence that was reduced to 12 years after a 2014 appeal.
Nucera’s son, Frank Nucera III, is also a Bordentown Township officer, and has also been accused of racial bias over a 2011 incident. When Rev. Mark A. Broach, a black pastor stopped his car at a gas station, Nucera III pulled in behind him and ordered him back into the car, dash camera footage obtained by the Trentonian shows. Nucera III had allegedly seen Broach illegally passing other cars on the road. When Broach did not sit down in the driver’s seat, Nucera III pulled a gun on him, at which point Broach got back in the car where his 7-year-old twins and 15-year-old daughter were sitting.
Later audio revealed Nucera discussing the incident with a fellow officers.
“I had it out and everything,” Nucera III told the other officer of his gun. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me.’ He had to pop his gas tank from in his trunk. He popped out of the car, I said, ‘Sir, get back in the car.’ Then he walks over and pops the trunk and whips the trunk over real quick. I fuckin drew down on him.”