Camden police officer not guilty of using excessive force on unarmed suspect

Camden County Police
Photo credit KYW Newsradio

UPDATED: 12:15 p.m.

CAMDEN, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — A federal jury says a Camden cop who punched a suspect 12 times in the head is not guilty of using excessive force.

Camden County police officer Nicholas Romantino wept softly and embraced his father after the jury delivered their verdict. 

It was the second time faced a federal trial on charges he used excessive force. The first ended in a mistrial in June. 

Romantino was caught on police body cams repeatedly punching unarmed suspect Edward Minguela 12 times in the head last February, while responding to a report of a man with a gun. Minguela matched the description but did not have a gun.

Prosecutors said the force violated Minguela's civil rights, but the defense argued Minguela was resisting arrest and the force was justified.

The panel deliberated for seven and a half hours over two days before concluding that the officer did not use excessive force. 

Romantino had no comment, but his attorney, Daniel Rybeck, was glad the jury found the use of force was appropriate.

"We are ecstatic at the verdict. Just overjoyed at the verdict that my client was vindicated," he said, "Everything he did was proper."

The jury on Friday told judge Robert Kugler they would not reach a unanimous verdict. But that was before a juror was excused for work reasons and was replaced with an alternate.

A statement from county spokesman Dan Keashen says the department respects the jury's decision, and that now an internal investigation into Romantino's conduct will begin. 

"We'll see what the department wants to do," said the officer's attorney Daniel Rybeck. "There's currently an administrative charge pending. So I'm sure internal affairs will be in touch with me and we're going to go from there."

Romantino remains suspended without pay.