Why we need to wait for facts in shocking Jersey City police chase — prosecutor
JERSEY CITY — The reaction to video from Sunday's police pursuit showing what appears to be police beating a man coming out of a burning car has sparked a debate into just what the officers were doing. As the investigation continues, Hudson County's prosecutor said Thursday it is important for the full investigation to run its course.
"I am asking the community to withhold any judgement until the Office of the Hudson County Prosecutor concludes its investigation," Esther Suarez said. "There will be a swift and fair review of all the evidence being accumulated, but it would be irresponsible to rush to judgement without reviewing all the facts before us."
The statement from Suarez came almost 24 hours after Mayor Steven Fulop took a more hard line approach to the video obtained by Univision. Fulop has called for criminal charges to filed against the police. He also has called into question officers' decision to fire at a car from their vehicles.
But Carmine Disbrow, president of the Jersey City Police Officer’s Benevolent Association, says he believes the video shows officers actually trying to help the man in question.
“Taking swift action isn’t always elegant, but this video clearly shows that the officers acted quickly to extinguish the flames, and pull this man out of harm’s way,” he said.
Suarez said the investigation so far includes "multiple" crashes "involving more than five vehicles." Investigators need to "review over 15 videos containing several hours of evidence, interview more than 20 witnesses and conduct a ballistics investigation into multiple shootings."
"We will consider this evidence in its entirety as we investigate the actions of all individuals who were involved with the events of Sunday night in Jersey City and we are asking for patience from the public."
County prosecutors in the state are tasked with investigating incidents in which municipal police officers use force resulting in injury or death.
In her statement, Suarez confirmed that investigators believe the video shows the police interacting with a 28-year-old bystander from West New York, later identified as Miguel Feliz-Rodriguez, and not Leo Pinkston. It was Pinkston who was being pursued by police with both sides exchanging gunfire.
During the pursuit, which occurred late Sunday night, Pinkston led police on a chase lasting several blocks and was involved in at least two separate crashes. The pursuit ended when he crashed into a utility pole, which caused a fire that injured Feliz-Rodriguez, who was driving on Tonnelle Avenue.
Suarez said after the crash, Feliz-Rodriguez was taken to the Burn Center at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, where he was listed as being in stable condition as of Thursday night.
Pinkston made his first court appearance on Thursday. He was charged with second-degree eluding and second-degree aggravated assault. He is being held at the Hudson County Correctional Facility.
Suarez asked anyone with additional information about the incident to call her office at 201-915-1345 or send anonymous information through the prosecutor's website.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com