Hudson County officials revealed last night that no body camera footage exists from the Jersey City police-involved shooting last week where three officers discharged their service weapons and injured two young adults.
“They did not have on body-worn cameras. My understanding [is] the only people that did have body-worn cameras on were the subsequent officers that showed up to the scene,” Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said at a meeting organized by the Hudson County Democratic Organization Black Caucus.
“But that’s not terribly helpful because they got there late – I don’t want to say late, they got there after the shooting already took place. The guys, those three individuals, the lieutenant and the two police officers, were working the detail and did not have body-worn cameras on.”
On July 1st, three Jersey City police officers discharged their service weapons while patrolling the Arlington Gardens Housing Complex and injured two young adults.
The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the incident, per the state attorney general’s guidelines, and last night’s meeting was called to shed some light on what exactly occurred.
When asked how many rounds were fired, given that the two young men were unarmed and were allegedly playing with fireworks, Suarez said she couldn’t answer at this time given that the investigation is ongoing.
However, she did reveal the names of the three officers involved: Lt. Crisant Bereguette, Raymond Vasquez and Michael Jacobo. She added that two of the officers are on modified duty and one has not returned to work, though did not name who was back at work or not.
The room, filled with at least 75 people, at times expressed great frustration over a number of issues, including a statement Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s office released last week which said that there were no indications of violations of the attorney general’s guidelines.
Chris Gadsden, a former Ward B councilman and the current Lincoln High School principal, called on Fulop to retract the statement, leading to a tense exchange between the two.
“Once the mayor gets the mic, I need for him to retract that statement, take that statement back because as of right now, it appears to be that the city has justified the shooting of young, black men,” Gadsden stated.
Fulop was quick to respond, accusing Gadsden of playing politics and spreading misinformation before clarifying his stance on the issue.
“From a political standpoint without facts, I told you on Friday that you were deliberately putting out misinformation, for the fourth time, on social media to mislead the public, and when you were corrected on it you refused to acknowledge it,” a visibly heated Fulop said.
The mayor added that his office never said there was “a justified shooting,” exclaiming “I don’t even know what those words mean,” before continuing that based on the information he was given, there was no obvious – a word he emphasized – violation of the attorney general guidelines.
Another hot button issue at the meeting was the fact that the officers were not from the West District and were working a housing detail, the reason Jersey City Public Safety Director James Shea explained as to why they were not wearing body cameras.
“The officers were not from the West District, the officers were from the housing detail. Earlier this year, at the request of the residents in housing, we established the details specifically dedicated to housing. Community-minded officers who just patrol our housing developments in Jersey City,” Shea said.
He further stated that officers in the West and South Districts have body cameras and while they are being implemented throughout the city, it has been increasing difficult to keep up with the costs associated with body cameras – particularly storing and maintaining video footage.
State Senator Sandra Cunningham said she and Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, two of the event organizers, are planning on meeting with the attorney general’s office in the near future to discuss how to offset and/or fund these continually rising expenses.
With that in mind, Shea cautioned those in attendance not assume the worst: even though no police body camera footage exists, he stated that he would be shocked it no one caught the incident on video.
“Just because the officer did not have a body-worn camera on, do not assume that there is not video of this incident. I would be shocked. I don’t know anything about the investigation, because as the prosecutor said, we’ve removed ourselves from it so there can’t be any potential for a conflict,” he added.
“But I know that with all the money that we’ve spent on cameras in this city, I would be shocked if any incident happened that we could not capture somewhere.”
Thomas Ashley, an attorney for the two men injured in the incident, said over the weekend that they plan on suing the police department and the city.
Other officials who helped organize the event included Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley, Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson, Councilwoman-at-Large Joyce Watterman and Freeholder Jerry Walker (D-4).