Jersey City police officers are accused of dragging, kicking, and knocking an innocent man on fire after a car chase ended in gunfire and a fiery crash on Sunday night.
According to reports, the car chase began at Ocean Avenue and Cator Avenue just after 11 p.m. when 48-year-old Leo Pinkston fled police during a traffic stop. Officers chased him down Tonnelle Avenue, but Pinkston got into a minor crash as he tried to move between two lanes of traffic. That’s when police opened fire, authorities say.
Pinkston kept going until he crashed into a utility pole a few blocks away and his vehicle burst into flames. 28-year-old Miguel Feliz, who happened to be driving along Tonnelle Avenue at the time of the chase, was critically injured after Pinkston’s car caught fire.
Feliz suffered burns in the crash; when he got out of his car to seek help, he was mercilessly kicked and knocked down by Jersey City police officers. The officers then dragged him away from the scene of the accident. He was eventually hospitalized with severe burns.
Eyewitness saw at least three damaged police cars and two other charred vehicles being towed away from the wreckage. Eric Roberto, who recorded the accident, told News 4 he witnessed the officers kicking the injured man and dragging him into the street.
“They didn’t help him; they just started kicking him and grabbing him. I don’t think they treated him the right way, and that’s not how you treat any human in this world.”
But the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association, a union representing Jersey City police officers, claims the officers were trying to put out the flames and get the man to safety. JCPOBA president Carmine Disbrow issued a statement defending the actions of its officers.
“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.”
Nevertheless, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop wants the officers fired. He told News 4:
“I don’t think there’s any explanation that would justify their actions. The entire pursuit that was previous to that fiery crash had questionable judgment calls from the officers, from the shootings to continuing to pursue the car.”
2 b clear. This is unacceptable. We’re IDing officers. We’ll pursue termination + criminal charges as appropriate https://t.co/JIWPWQNrdp
— Steven Fulop (@StevenFulop) June 7, 2017
Feliz is being treated at St. Barnabas Medical Center for severe burns to the body, but he is expected to survive, authorities add. Ramon Feliz, the victim’s brother, said Miguel, a young father from West New York, was heading home from work and it appeared he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time:
“My brother right now is in very bad shape. Thirty percent of his body is burned. OK, anyone can get confused. But how are you going to tell, the police can’t identify who is who. I don’t have anything against the cops, but that wasn’t the proper way to treat anybody in that kind of situation. He’s on fire. Do what’s possible to help him and then resolve the problem.”
Pinkston was charged with aggravated assault and eluding police. Raymond Worrall, director of communications at the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, released a statement saying:
“Our investigators have reviewed the video and we believe with certainty that this man is the bystander from West New York who suffered burns, not Leo Pinkston, the individual pursued by police. As I previously said, we will utilize all resources available to the Prosecutor’s Office for a full and thorough investigation as we seek to bring this matter to a rightful conclusion.”