State Trooper Beating Changed Disabled Son's Life, Dad Says
Hackettstown's James Bayliss and his family still waiting for answers after 2009 incident.
HACKETTSTOWN, NJ -- It was a cool May morning in 2009 when James Bayliss and his friend, Tim Snyder, were coming home from a night out with friends.
The ride home seemed ordinary at first, but the men came across a New Jersey State Police checkpoint in Warren County and were told to pull over. The search by authorities was for individuals in an alleged home invasion that occurred nearby.
What happened next would alter Bayliss’ life forever, and three years later, he and his family are still searching for answers.
Troopers told Bayliss to exit the vehicle he was a passenger in and began to search him. As seen in a patrol car dashboard video, Staff Sgt. Richard Wambold, while frisking Bayliss, then 21, throws the man to the ground and repeatedly punches him in the face.
A few minutes later, after Bayliss was handcuffed, a group of troopers carried him to a nearby patrol car, first slamming his head into the front fender area of the vehicle.
When Bayliss was later released, his father, John, couldn’t believe what his son had told him.
“(James) told me he got beat up by the cops,” John Bayliss said, who speaks on behalf of his son because of the sensitivity of the issue. “I couldn’t believe what happened; I was just appalled.”
The incident, however, wasn’t made public until three years later, when The Star Ledger obtained the video for its publication. Before then, and even up until now, the family cannot find closure.
“(The investigators) keep telling us it’s an ongoing investigation,” Bayliss said. “I’ve probably made more than 60 phone calls to the (New Jersey State Police) Office of Professional Standards, but they just dead-end you.”
Patch's calls to the New Jersey State Police Office of Professional Standards were not returned regarding information for the ongoing investigation.
Bayliss said his lawyers requested evidence from the police for two years before receiving any documentation.
In June, state police and the Attorney General’s Office announced Wambold had used excessive force, but no punishment has been handed down to the trooper, an nj.com story reported.
In February 2010, however, the same investigating agencies said Wambold did not use excessive force, as Deputy Attorney General Michael Engallena said he did not see “anything shocking or unreasonable,” an additional nj.com report stated.
Wambold's attorney said Monday he's requested a federal court judge to not allow State Police and the Attorney General's Office to meet with his client without him present, according to NJ.com.
‘It’s Been Hell’
The investigation resulting from the incident has dragged on for more than three years, but for James Bayliss, the story actually began in 2005.
At the age of 17, James Bayliss was an ordinary teenager attending Warren Hills Regional High School. He played football for a couple years, his dad said, and was close with a small group of friends.
The youngest of three—James has an older sister and brother who are twins, Nick and Lauren—Bayliss “was a typical teenager,” his dad said. He picked up BMX riding and became pretty good at it, too, and stayed out of trouble.
In September of 2005, Bayliss was a passenger in a car that crashed head-on into a tree, putting him in a coma for three months. The teen sustained a broken femur, a bruised lung and heart, and severe brain injuries.
When he came out of the coma, Bayliss had to relearn everything, his dad said. Multiple therapies were required for him to learn walking and talking and brushing his teeth.
“Where James has come from, and what he’s been able to do is really remarkable,” John Bayliss said of his son’s recovery. “And then this happened.”
The brain injuries Bayliss sustained in the car crash played a key role in the incident with state troopers, his dad said. For someone who doesn’t know James personally, he or she may think Bayliss is intoxicated when speaking with him because of his incurred mental disabilities, his father said.
In the video from the beating by the state trooper, a segment shows Snyder speaking with police and, according to John Bayliss, explaining his son's mental condition prior to Wambold frisking him.
In his report following the incident, Wambold said Bayliss did several things to provoke the physical use of force, including an attempted head-butt by Bayliss during the frisk and repeatedly disregarded Wambold’s orders, the nj.com report said.
Bayliss was charged with resisting arrest and obstruction of justice after being beaten. The charges have since been dismissed.
Since the traumatic experience, Bayliss and his family have had their ups and downs.
“(James) has good days and bad,” Bayliss said. “He just doesn’t understand how someone can be assaulted like that for no reason. He’s had a hard time coping with that.”
Bayliss has done as much as he can on behalf of his son along with what hired counsel has been able to achieve. The long process has been at the forefront of the family’s mind.
The Bayliss family has grown stronger as a whole, the patriarch said, but the stress level has been very high.
The now-24-year-old Bayliss is suffering from depression as a result of the incident, his father said, and the family has grown distant from past friends and relatives.
“People know who we are when we’re out and a lot of times they want to talk (about the beating),” Bayliss said. “Some people have told us they still support the police even after seeing the video.
“It’s been hell,” Bayliss continued. “I just hope the police do the right thing and give (Wambold) what he deserves.”
Wambold is currently on administrative leave, according to New Jersey State Police Lt. Stephen Jones.