Skip to main content

Grand Jury Declines to Criminally Charge Bayonne Police Officer in Non-Fatal Shooting

Hudson County

By: Najla Alexander

Authorities in Hudson County announced that a Hudson County grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges against a Bayonne police officer at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the non-fatal police-involved shooting of Kelvin Ortiz, 36, of Jersey City, on July 23, 2023.Ad Officials said this matter was investigated by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO) and presented to Hudson County residents serving on a county grand jury in accordance with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office’s 2019 Independent Prosecutor Directive (the “Directive”).

In July 2021, officials said that the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure that such grand jury presentations were conducted in a neutral, objective manner, with appropriate transparency regarding the process, and were consistent with the Directive.

According to officials, the investigation included interviews of witnesses, photographs, body-worn camera footage, physical evidence collected by the Hudson County Prosecutors Office’s Crime Scene Unit, and ballistics evidence that was examined by personnel from the State Police Department’s Firearms Unit.

This evidence, along with recorded interviews given by the three Bayonne officers on scene at the time of the shooting and the officer who fired his weapon, was presented to the grand jury, officials stated.

Officials say after hearing testimony and receiving this evidence, the grand jury concluded its deliberations on March 7, 2024, and voted “no bill,” meaning the grand jurors concluded no criminal charges should be filed against Officer Rafael Ocasio of the Bayonne Police Department.

According to the investigation, on July 13, 2023, in the City of Bayonne, Bayonne police officers approached a vehicle in a parking lot located at 1088 Broadway.

The vehicle matched the description of a car that had driven away from a gas station on 53rd Street near Avenue E without paying for gas, officials said.

During the interaction with police, authorities say, the driver of the vehicle, Kelvin Ortiz, reversed and backed into numerous police vehicles.

Officials say he then drove his car up on the side of the parking lot over the curb, made a U-turn, and drove in the direction of Officer Ocasio as he fled the parking lot.

Officer Ocasio discharged his weapon six times. Kelvin Ortiz suffered non-life-threatening gunshot injuries and was treated at a local hospital, where he remained for two weeks before he was discharged, officials stated.

AdAccording to officials, Ortiz was charged with Eluding four counts of Aggravated Assault, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, and Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose.

Officials say the grand jury was instructed on the elements of potential criminal offenses that could be brought, including Aggravated Assault and Official Misconduct, and, as required by statutes, the grand jury was further instructed on forms of legal justification, including Self-defense, Defense of others, and Use of force in law enforcement.

By concluding that the officer was legally justified in his use of deadly force, the grand jury decided not to lodge criminal charges against the officer, authorities say. 

Officials stated that a conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the Directive, and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation.

Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Kormann, Director of Investigations of Fatal Police Encounters, reviewed the investigation prior to presentation to the grand jury in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations.

The matter was presented to the grand jury by Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Karyn Darish, officials said.

At the conclusion of these investigations, pursuant to the Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any principal should be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for administrative review in accordance with the Attorney General’s Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures, according to officials. 

Officials say that the OPIA monitors any resulting review and takes the necessary actions to ensure that the review is completed in a timely fashion and that appropriate actions are taken based on the results of the review.