A Hudson County grand jury has returned no charges against three Jersey City police officers who used their service weapons after two young adults sent off fireworks at a housing authority building on July 1st.
By Mike Montemarano/Hudson County View
The investigation was presented over a span of three days.
On Dec. 5, the grand jury decided to indict three Jersey City police officers who were involved in the non-fatal use of deadly force on Randolph Avenue, Hudson Prosecutor Esther Suarez said in a statement.
The officers involved were Lieutenant Crisant Bereguette, Officer Michael Jacobo, and Officer Michael Vazquez.
The JCPD officers who shot the two men voluntarily appeared and testified before the jury, and each received a “no bill” verdict, meaning that the jury determined the use of force to be justified under the law after being informed of the potential criminal charges and applicable justification defenses relevant to the case.
Since the use of deadly force in the incident was non-fatal, the Attorney General’s Office did not have to conduct the investigation, as per an Attorney General’s Office directive enacted January 2019, Suarez wrote.
The HCPO investigation was reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office, which established the procedures for the investigation.
On July 1, shortly before 10:14 p.m., Bereguette Vazquez, and Jacobo arrived at the Randolph Avenue entrance to the Arlington Gardens Apartment Complex to begin a routine patrol.
All three were assigned to the department’s housing unit, and were dressed in full uniform.
Suarez said that Moore exited a 2013 Nissan Altima south of the parking lot the officers were in. There were three passengers in Moore’s car- Shyquan Rush, and passengers identified as K.G. and T.G.
The three other men remained in the vehicle as it continued north on Randolph Avenue, past the parking lot where the officers were beginning their patrol and past the three apartment buildings.
The Altima came to a stop on the corner of Randolph Avenue and McDougall Street.
Rush and Moore went to an area to shoot roman candles at a group of friends they expected to be hanging out in the area of 331-337 Randolph Avenue.
“It was planned that they would approach from different directions to trap the intended targets of the Roman candle bursts,” Suarez wrote.
Allegedly, Moore made his way toward the intended targets from the south, while Rush and a man believed to be K.G. exited the Altima.
K.G. and Rush allegedly ignited their Roman candles, and began shooting them south in the direction of a group of people present on the sidewalk in front of the apartment buildings on Randolph Avenue.
Rush ran to where the officers were located, and at least six Roman candle bursts exploded before Rush reached the driveway to the parking lot the officers were located in, the report said.
Four individuals ran away from the apartment buildings on Randolph Avenue, toward Moore, whose Roman candles were ignited at that point, authorities said.
At this point the officers were unsure if the bursts were fireworks or gunshots.
Jacobo and Berguette were positioned closest to the side of 331 Randolph and the sidewalk, while Vazquez was closer to the entrance of the Arlington Gardens apartments when the bursts began going off.
The officers saw three or four men flee past them in fear, officials said.
Moore was spotted in the street, partially taking cover behind a parked car with an ignited Roman candle in his hand, extended into a firing position, Suarez added.
Rush was soon spotted approaching the driveway from the north, allegedly firing his Roman candle in the direction from where the men fled.
Moore was then shot by an officer that remains unidentified while “advancing toward the fleeing men and the officers,” Suarez wrote.
“Mr. Moore goes down but gets back up and moves south on the sidewalk nearest the driveway when he appears to get shot again. Mr. Moore then went down on the sidewalk, south of the driveway where the officers were positioned. Mr. Moore no longer possessed the Roman candle(s).”
Rush emerged form the corner of 331 Randolph Avenue after Moore went down the first time, wielding an ignited Roman candle and pointing it in the direction of the driveway where the fleeing men and officers were positioned, Suarez wrote.
“The credible evidence indicates at this point, neither the officers nor Mr. Rush or Mr. Moore could distinguish the sounds of gunfire from the loud report of the Roman candle fireworks,” Suarez wrote.
Rush continued to move south across the driveway toward where the men fled, and was shot in the calf by an unidentified officer.
Rush fell to the ground, quickly got to his feet, and ran toward the Nissan Altima with K.G. and T.G., and was driven to Jersey City Medical Center to be treated for a “single, through and through gunshot wound to his left calf,” Suarez wrote.
Moore remained on the sidewalk, and officers radioed for medical assistance. Moore was transported to Jersey City Medical Center.
Moore had three gunshot wounds, one which was “superficial through and through to the left anterior thigh,” and another that was an “entry wound with no exit to the right posterior gluteal fold,” and a third wound which was an “entry wound with no exit to the right lateral distal femur,” Suarez said.
Bereguette fired a total of 14 rounds, Jacobo fired two rounds, and Vazquez fired five rounds, Suarez wrote.
“Ballistics tests were unable to conclusively establish which officers’ discharges resulted in the injuries to Mr. Rush and Mr. Moore,” Suarez added.
Suarez also said that a comprehensive conflicts of interest check, outlined by an Attorney General’s Office Directive, ruled out any potential conflicts of interest that could have been posed by the investigation.
“The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office conducted the investigation independently of the Jersey City Police Department …The results of the comprehensive conflicts check were submitted to the Office of the Attorney General, Division of Criminal Justice. On our about July 3, 2019, DCJ determined that the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office was the appropriate independent agency to conduct the investigation.”
Evidence consisted of civilian and police witness interviews, review of the police reports filed, canvassing for surveillance video, scene processing, and the collection and testing of ballistics evidence.
The privately-recorded video evidence used by investigators in the case has not been released publicly yet.
Mike Montemarano can be reached at email@example.com.