Four Jersey City police officers have been forced to resign and have reached a plea deal on their criminal charges related to a 2017 case over a controversial police pursuit that ended in a fiery crash where an innocent man was beaten, authorities said.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The plea agreement resolves an indictment against the officers for their involvement in the incident that began on the night of June 4, 2017 when defendant Leo Pinkston led police on a high- speed motor vehicle pursuit that ended when he crashed his fleeing vehicle into another vehicle driven by Miguel Feliz-Rodriguez, County Prosecutor Esther Suarez aid in a statement.
Officer MD Khan pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for his attempt to cause significant bodily injury to Feliz- Rodriguez, Officers Eric Kosinski and Francisco Rodriguez pleaded guilty to endangering another person by creating a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another, while Lt. Keith Ludwig will be forced to retire, officials said.
Khan will face probation, while the other three now former officers will have to enter into and complete a Pretrial Intervention Program.
All four men will also now be be permanently barred from public employment in the field of law enforcement, police said.
The incident that gave rise to the indictment began on Sunday, June 4th, 2017, shortly after 11 p.m., when members of the Jersey City Police Department attempted to stop a motor vehicle in the area of Ocean and Cator Avenues in Jersey City.
The driver, Pinkston, age 48, of Jersey City, fled the area and eluded police officers for approximately six miles within the confines of Jersey City.
While fleeing, Pinkston led police officers on a dangerous high-speed chase, jeopardizing the safety of police officers and the community.
During the chase, Pinkston drove at police, crashed into civilian cars, and crashed into and drove through a police car. At times, the vehicle reached speeds of 60 miles per hour, authorities said.
In the area of Carlton and Tonnelle Avenues, Kosinski and Khan then discharged their firearms in the direction of the vehicle driven by Pinkston.
Meanwhile, on the intersection of Manhattan and Tonnelle Avenues, Rodriguez discharged his firearm at the fleeing vehicle driven by Pinkston.
From there, Pinkston continued to drive north on Tonnelle Avenue, ultimately crashing his vehicle into a vehicle being driven by Feliz-Rodriguez, age 28, of West New York, which caused a collision with a utility pole and both vehicles ignited in fire.
Cell phone video depicts Feliz-Rodriguez extricating himself while on fire from his crashed and burning car. Ludwig was the first officer to arrive on the scene and the cell phone video appears to show Ludwig kicking Feliz-Rodriguez while he was still on fire.
However, a second surveillance video recovered as a result of the investigation appears to show the physical contact by Ludwig in the context of fire suppression.
The cell phone video and the surveillance video recovered from the scene also depicts another police officer, now identified as Khan, running in and kicking Feliz-Rodriguez.
Feliz-Rodriguez was subsequently transported by Emergency Medical Services to St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston where he was treated for his severe injuries.
On February 5th, 2018, Pinkston pleaded guilty to eluding, a second-degree crime, and aggravated assault, a fourth-degree crime.
On March 16, 2018, he was sentenced to five years in jail for the second-degree crime and 18 months in jail for the fourth-degree crime, to be served concurrently in New Jersey State Prison.
Additionally, Feliz-Rodriguez, was consulted on all aspects of the plea agreement and concurs with the resolution.
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.5d, the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey reviewed and ultimately authorized the Pretrial Intervention aspects of the resolution of this case.
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office had also previously reviewed the incident.
â€œThis agreement is substantive in that it provides accountability for the actions of the police officers while at the same time taking into account the input of the victim,â€ Suarez said in a statement. â€œIt is the most fair and just resolution in a difficult case.â€
Sentencing for Khan has been scheduled for November 7, 2019 before Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis- Menendez, who accepted his guilty plea.
The State is represented by Assistant Prosecutor Karyn Darish of the Hudson County Prosecutorâ€™s Office Public Integrity Unit.