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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Cops’ Day Off May Have Been a Fatal Mistake

NEWARK (CN) - A grieving mother says in Federal Court that an abusive ex-boyfriend threw their infant daughter over a bridge and into the icy Raritan River after police officers refused to intercede because of the Presidents Day holiday.

Venetta Benjamin claims that her relationship with Shamsiddin Abdur-Raheem became physically and verbally abusive about one month after she learned she was pregnant.

Zara Malani-Lin Abdur-Raheem was born on Nov. 19, 2009, and over two months later she "advised Shamsiddin that she was terminating their relationship as a result of his abusive behavior," according to the complaint.

Abdur-Raheem allegedly reacted to the news by assaulting, choking and threatening to kill Benjamin if she ever left him.

Benjamin says she fled to her mother and then to the East Orange Police Department (EOPD) when the threats became more frequent and started to involve her daughter.

Benjamin says she tried to get a domestic violence temporary restraining order (DV-TRO) against Abdur-Raheem on Feb. 15, 2010, but the attempt failed because it was Presidents Day.

"Despite entreaties by Venetta for protection for herself and Zara, EOPD personnel attending the front desk turned her away," the complaint states. "They claimed due to the President's Day holiday they could not help her and directed Venetta to report to the Superior Court of New Jersey Family Division-Essex County on February 16, 2010, to seek a DV-TRO."

East Orange personnel "failed to contact the on-duty judge assigned to handle application for DV-TROs," Benjamin claims.

But when Venetta went to the courthouse the next day, leaving her mother to look after Zara, Abdur-Raheem "forcefully kidnapped Zara," according to the complaint.

"While on the Garden State Parkway, Shamsiddin stopped his car on the Driscoll Bridge and tossed Zara off the bridge into the frigid water of the Raritan River below which resulted in Zara's death," the complaint states.

At the time of her death, Zara was three days shy of turning 3 months old.

In addition to East Orange Police Department and Abdur-Raheem, the complaint names the city of East Orange and unknown police officers and employees as defendants.

Venetta is suing for constitutional violations, negligence and wrongful death on behalf of herself and her deceased daughter.

She is represented by John Kemenczy of West Caldwell.

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