TRENTON – A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Michael Rivera, 32, of Newark who was fatally shot by Officer Andrew Duffy of the Riverdale Police Department during an encounter on Jan. 23, 2020.
The fatal police encounter was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to 16 to 23 New Jersey residents called to serve on the grand jury in accordance with Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive” issued in 2019.
In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures(“SOPs”) to ensure that these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, and with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the Independent Prosecutor Directive.
The investigation of this fatal police encounter included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, review of video footage, and autopsy results from the medical examiner.
After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury concluded its deliberations yesterday, Jan. 10, and voted “no bill,” meaning a majority of grand jurors found that the actions of the officer who shot Mr. Rivera should not result in charges against him.
According to the investigation, the shooting occurred at approximately 10:15 a.m. on Mathews Drive in Bloomingdale.
Earlier, Officer Duffy had attempted to stop Mr. Rivera in the parking lot of a business in Riverdale in connection with a theft investigation.
In the parking lot, Rivera jumped into a vehicle and started it.
Officer Duffy attempted to take the keys out of the vehicle, but was unsuccessful.
Rivera put the car in drive, and drove away at a high rate of speed.
Officer Duffy withdrew from the vehicle to avoid being dragged.
Police were alerted to be on the lookout for the suspect vehicle, which was later spotted and pursued by officers from local police agencies, including Officer Duffy.
Mr. Rivera ultimately drove onto Mathews Drive, which is a cul de sac, followed by several police officers, including Officer Duffy.
Mr. Rivera drove over an unpaved, raised bushy area between the driveways in an apparent effort to evade the police.
Mr. Rivera drove toward Officer Duffy’s marked police vehicle as Officer Duffy was exiting his vehicle.
Mr. Rivera’s car struck Officer Duffy’s vehicle and the collision pinned Officer Duffy’s foot in the door.
During the encounter, Officer Duffy fired multiple rounds, one of which fatally wounded Mr. Rivera.
Police and emergency medical personnel administered first aid, and Mr. Rivera was transported to Chilton Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased.
Officer Duffy was treated for a foot injury and later released.
A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody.
It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved.
An officer may use deadly force in New Jersey when the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.
A conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation.
Prior to presentation to the grand jury, the investigation was reviewed by OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations in the SOPs.
At the conclusion of these investigations, pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any principal should be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for administrative review in accordance with the AG’s Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures.
OPIA monitors any resulting review and takes such actions as are necessary to ensure that the review is completed in a timely fashion, and that appropriate actions are taken based on the results of the review.