Newark Cop Indicted in Fatal Shooting of Fleeing Driver – TAPinto.net

Newark Cop Indicted in Fatal Shooting of Fleeing Driver - TAPinto.net
New Jersey police officer could get life sentence after driver gunned down during high-speed chase
A grand jury indicted the 26-year-old officer in connection with the police shooting death of a man who fled a traffic stop in January.

A grand jury indicted a Newark police officer on Tuesday on charges that he repeatedly shot at a fleeing vehicle during a chase, killing the driver and wounding a passenger.

“Officer Crespo has been involved in numerous gun arrests in his brief career, and his is one of the reasons crime is down in Newark, and Newark citizens are safer than they have been in the past,” said James Stewart Jr., president of the Newark Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12. “The Newark FOP fully supports him, and his family, and we look forward to the next step in this process.”

According to the Essex County prosecutor, the 26-year-old officer fired at the fleeing vehicle at three separate locations during the Jan. 28 pursuit, after the driver, Gregory C. Griffin, 46, sped off from a traffic stop.

Inside the car, prosecutors say both men were shot in the head. Griffin died the next day. The passenger survived, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported. Crespo can be heard telling other officers what happened: “Yo, I shot both of them… He pointed his gun at me… He started pointing the gun at me.”

The indictment comes three months after both the Essex County prosecutor and the Newark public safety director said they had serious concerns about the conduct of the officer, Jovanny Crespo, during the chase and suspended him without pay.

The action taken by the grand jury marks a rare indictment of a police officer amid a national debate over policing and the use of lethal force, particularly against African-American men.

“It is the state’s position that this officer’s conduct that night was criminal. He showed a reckless disregard for human life by shooting into a moving vehicle,” Theodore Stephens, the acting Essex County prosecutor, said.

In Ferguson, Mo., a grand jury declined to indict an officer who shot Michael Brown. In Minnesota, a jury acquitted an officer accused of shooting Philando Castile. In Louisiana, the Justice Department declined to bring charges in the shooting of Alton B. Sterling.

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Newark Police Officer Jovanny Crespo woke up behind bars Wednesday, accused of aggravated manslaughter and assault for shooting two suspects during an incident caught on police body cams.

Since 2005, 36 non-federal law enforcement officers have been convicted of a crime resulting from an on-duty shooting (16 by guilty plea, 20 by jury trial and none convicted by a bench trial), according to Philip M. Stinson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University who tracks police shootings. About 900 to 1,000 people are fatally shot by police officers in the United States every year, Mr. Stinson said, citing a database created by the Washington Post.

“The chief and I did watch this video, early on the next day,” Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said. “Office Crespo took the actions he did and he’ll have to explain that.”

A release sent out late Tuesday by the county prosecutor said this is the first fatal police-involved shooting to result in an indictment in Essex County in recent memory.

When the car finally came to a stop at 54 Irvine Turner Boulevard, police found that Griffin had been shot in the head and the passenger, Andrew Dixon, 35, was shot in the face, according to authorities and police records. Griffin died at University Hospital and Dixon, who was initially in critical condition, was charged with possessing the illegal handgun loaded with hollow-point bullets, police said.

Video: Wild video shows Newark cop fire at vehicle, killing driver

It is the states position that this officers conduct that night was criminal, said Theodore Stephens, the acting Essex County Prosecutor, during a news conference announcing the indictment on Tuesday night. He showed a reckless disregard for human life by shooting into a moving vehicle, a vehicle which had heavily tinted windows.

Griffin, , who had a history of drug offenses, fled a traffic stop after another officer allegedly spotted a handgun in his vehicle, according to police. Officer Hector Ortiz gave chase, with Crespo riding in the cruisers passenger seat, according to police records. The video shows Crespo jump out and shoot at the car before jumping back in and ordering Ortiz to go faster and cut Griffin off.

Mr. Crespo was charged on Tuesday with six counts, including aggravated manslaughter, and could face life in prison if convicted on all counts, according to the county prosecutor.

While shooting at a moving vehicle is not prohibited, the New Jersey Attorney Generals use-of-force guidelines discourage it because of the risk to bystanders and passengers. The guidelines say officers should only fire on moving vehicles if there are no other options and there is an imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or another person.

Police officer indicted after wild chase leaves 1 dead

During a roughly mile-long chase through the streets of Newark, Mr. Crespo shot repeatedly at Mr. Griffins vehicle, eventually killing Mr. Griffin and critically injuring the passenger, Andrew Dixon, 35.

In February, after announcing the officers suspension, both Newark police and the prosecutors office refused to publicly name the officer or release police video of the incident in response to records requests, arguing that it shouldnt be released until the end of the grand jury process.

The pursuit began, according to authorities, at 11:15 p.m. on a Monday night after an unidentified female officer spotted a handgun in Mr. Griffins car. After an attempted traffic stop, Mr. Griffin fled.

The chase was captured on Mr. Crespos body camera, which the prosecutors office released to the public on Tuesday night. In the first altercation with Mr. Griffins car, Mr. Crespo exits his police car and sprints around to the drivers side to try to intercept Mr. Griffin, and then fires three rounds as the car pulls away.

A Newark police officer has been indicted nearly four months after he killed the driver of a fleeing vehicle during a wild chase caught on the cops body cam, the video of which shows the excited officer repeatedly jumping from his cruiser and firing shots at the car.

Newark cop charged with aggravated manslaughter in fatal traffic stop shooting: officials

After a 60-second chase, Mr. Crespos car catches Mr. Griffin at an intersection. Mr. Crespo immediately jumps out of the car and fires three more rounds as Mr. Griffin speeds off again.

As I have stated previously, the Officer Crespos actions immediately raised concerns for us and were inconsistent with our training and protocols. It should be noted that there were more than a dozen officers on the scene who acted professionally and appropriately and were not involved in the prosecutorial investigation. I think that is evidence that most of our officers understand the correct procedures, even in a high-adrenaline situation like this case, involving a car chase where police know a weapon is present.

Newark police officer who fatally shot fleeing driver indicted by grand jury

I think I shot him, Mr. Crespo tells his fellow officer. I seen the gun, he pointed the gun at me. Bro, he pointed the gun right at me.

To all of those who have already vilified and convicted my client, might I state that a good law enforcement officer fights not because he or she hates what is in front of them, but because they love who stands behind them, Toscano said. So lets withhold judgment herein until a petit jury has heard the evidence and rendered a verdict, a verdict that assuredly will allow him to get back to work.

A mile from where the chase first began, Mr. Griffins car came to a stop. Mr. Crespo ran toward the vehicle as the passenger-side door cracked open. He fired two more shots and opened the door, pulling Mr. Dixon from the vehicle and yelling get out of the car and dont reach for nothing. Mr. Griffin can be seen slumped in the drivers seat. He died the following day.

“Our client remains wholly perplexed as to why the state has opted to charge him criminally here, as do I, as his actions on the night in question were absolutely justified and in full accordance with the… Attorney General Guidelines dealing with high speed pursuits, Crespos attorney, Patrick Toscano, said Wednesday. That said, he remains resolute, valiant and confident.

Police have said that a handgun with hollow-point bullets was found inside the car; Mr. Dixon was charged with possession of an illegal gun.

Part of our ongoing improvement strategies are to increase our transparency and accountability,” Newark Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose said in a statement Wednesday. “In that respect, we immediately turned over all the video camera recordings on the shooting incident to Essex County Prosecutor Ted Stephens and cooperated fully with the county investigation.

Video: Newark Police Officer Charged After Deadly Shooting Caught On Disturbing Body Cam Video

Newark Police Officer Faces Life In Prison, Deadly Shooting Caught On Disturbing Body Cam Video

The indictment comes as the Newark Police Department is working toward reform after a federal investigation uncovered a troubling pattern of unconstitutional practices, including improper searches and stops, and excessive use of force. The department remains under a federal consent decree.

The New Jersey Attorney Generals use-of-force guidelines discourages firing at a moving vehicle because of the risk to bystanders and passengers. The guidelines say officers should only fire on moving vehicles if there are no other options and there is an imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or another person.

Nick Corasaniti is a New Jersey-based correspondent, covering the politics, policy, people, trains, beaches and eccentricities that give the Garden State its charm. A New Jersey native, he previously covered presidential campaigns for The Times. @NYTnickc • Facebook

A New Jersey police officer could spend the rest of his life behind bars after being charged with shooting and killing a driver and wounding a passenger during a wild chase that was all caught on video.

Jovanny Crespo of the Newark Police Department was indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on six counts related to the late January death of Gregory Griffin, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said. The announcement coincided with the release of a dramatic bodycam video of the fatal police pursuit, showing the 26-year-old officer firing off numerous rounds into the car Griffin was driving.

Gregory Griffin died at University Hospital the day after the chase and shooting. He was 46. His family spoke with WABC-TV, who shared that he left behind four children. Griffin’s father, Alphonso Whitaker, said his son “didn’t deserve” to have the police shooting at him. Griffin’s younger brother told the reporter that Griffin’s young daughter “cries every day for him.”

“It is the state’s position that this officer’s conduct that night was criminal,” acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens said. “He showed a reckless disregard for human life by shooting into a moving vehicle, a vehicle which had heavily tinted windows. This is the first fatal police-involved shooting to result in an indictment in Essex County in recent memory."

Crespo fired the first shots after jumping out of the car and running toward Griffin’s vehicle. You can hear the gun go off three times as Griffin speeds away. Crespo, breathing hard, gets back into the cruiser and says over the radio, “Shots fired.” At 1:33 into the video, Crespo is heard telling his partner, “I shot at it, bro.”

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The president of the Newark Fraternal Order of Police, James Stewart Jr, has defended Crespo. He told NJ.com, “The Newark FOP fully supports him, and his family, and we look forward to the next step in this process, which will be a courtroom, where a jury will hear the fully story of what occurred that night, not just a portion of the events.”

Investigators say the Jan. 28 incident began after a female Newark police officer pulled over Griffin’s car in a traffic stop. They say he sped off and the officer “radioed… that she saw a gun,” which “led to a pursuit involving a number of police cars.”

Jovanny Crespo was the only Newark Police officer to fire his weapon against Gregory Griffin and his passenger. The body camera footage, made public by Essex County prosecutors and shared online by NBC New York, shows that Crespo fired multiple times at the moving vehicle. Crespo was the passenger and his partner, Officer Ortiz, was driving.

Crespo’s bodycam footage starts with him riding in the passenger seat of a police cruiser, repeatedly demanding the driver to “cut in front” of Griffin’s black car.

Crespo then hops out as Griffin pulls into an intersection, firing off several rounds at the vehicle while saying “get out of the car”. But Griffin takes off again and Crespo re-enters the police cruiser, and is heard breathing heavily as his driver revs the engine in pursuit.

“I shot at him, bro,” Crespo says to the driver. He then resumes giving instructions to the driver, who tells him to “relax”. At one point, the now-agitated driver yells at Crespo to stay inside the car as he tries to open his passenger door and engage Griffin a second time.

Newark Police Officer Jovanny Crespo could be sentenced to life in prison for his alleged role in a police-involved shooting in January, prosecutors say. (Essex County Prosecutors Office)

Yet at another intersection, Crespo appears to ignore the driver’s command. The footage shows him jumping out of the car and firing off more rounds at Griffin’s vehicle, which once again speeds off.

“Bro, he pointed the gun right at me,” Crespo tells the driver after getting back inside his police car.

The chase ends with Crespo leaving his police cruiser a third time to approach Griffin, now stopped in the middle of a street.

“Stop the car!” Crespo is heard saying as Griffin’s vehicle – with its passenger door slightly open – begins moving again. Crespo fires off multiple rounds at the car and other officers swarm it, pulling out 35-year-old passenger Andrew Dixon, who sustained serious injuries. Griffin, behind the wheel, remained motionless.

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office says both men were shot in the head during the pursuit and Griffin, 46, died at a hospital the following day. No officers were injured during the incident and Crespo was the only one to discharge his weapon, they added.

In the bodycam footage, Crespo is heard telling his colleagues “I shot him in the head” and “I shot both of them.”

The New Jersey Attorney General’s use of force policy states that officers are only allowed to use deadly force to prevent the escape of a fleeing suspect if it is determined that the suspect “will pose an imminent danger of death of serious bodily harm should the escape succeed.” The policy also says officers can only use deadly force in those conditions if it “presents no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons.”

Crespo was taken into custody Tuesday being charged with aggravated manslaughter, aggravated assault, two counts of Possession of Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose and two counts of Official Misconduct – and faces life in prison if convicted on all counts. He has been suspended without pay and is expected to make his first court appearance Wednesday or Thursday.


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