This unrest came to a head when two white Newark policemen, John DeSimone and Vito Pontrelli, arrested a black cabdriver, John Weerd Smith, for improperly passing them on 15th Avenue. Smith was taken to the 4th Police Precinct, which was across the street from Hayes Homes, a large public housing project. Residents of Hayes Homes saw an incapacitated Smith being dragged into the precinct, and a rumor was started that he had been killed while in police custody. (Smith had been moved to a local hospital.) The crowds in outrage began to destroy public and private property and confronted and attacked the police causing injuries. In turn there were a few men who were shot dead by police.
The second day saw a reduced intensity from the previous night and there was a chance for calm. Unfortunately the National Guard had already been called up and entered the city; early in the evening of July 15th a woman named Rebecca Brown was killed in a fusillade of bullets directed at the window of her second floor apartment ( http://www.67riots.rutgers.edu/n_victims.htm ). This event helped to set off the worst of the fighting. By the sixth day riots, looting, violence, and destruction — ultimately left a total of 26 people dead, 725 people injured, and close to 1,500 arrested. Property damage exceeded $10 million.
In an effort to contain the riots, every evening at 6 p.m. the Bridge Street and Jackson Street Bridges, both of which span the Passaic River between Newark and Harrison, were closed until the next morning.
The 1967 Plainfield riots occurred during the same period in Plainfield, New Jersey, a city about 18 miles southwest of Newark.
The long- and short-term causes of the riots are examined in the documentary film Revolution ’67. The riots were depicted in the Philip Roth novel American Pastoral.