By: Yuritza Arroyo
The Attorney General’s Office announced charges have been filed against a Paterson police officer who allegedly shot a man in the back as he was running away from the officer in June, leaving the victim with a disabling spinal injury.
According to Paterson authorities, Jerry Moravek, 40, of Paterson, has been charged by criminal complaint with second-degree aggravated assault causing severe bodily injury and second-degree official misconduct.
“We have promised never to be complacent, and we have made a commitment to stand up against unnecessary and excessive uses of force by those with a duty to protect the public, enforce the law and promote justice.
There is no more significant action than the use of deadly force. Not only can it result in the unnecessary loss of life or permanent injuries and disabilities, but instances of uncalled-for, disproportional, and destructive use of deadly force sow distrust in, and erodes respect for, law enforcement among the community,” said Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin.
“Law enforcement officers across the country put themselves at risk every day, and in New Jersey, they receive extensive training to be able to determine when a threat is genuine and how to resolve a situation without the use of deadly force.
Every case deserves a thorough investigation, and here we have determined that the use of deadly force was not justified.
A young man’s life will never be the same because of the unnecessary action by this officer, which contradicted his police training and his oath to protect and preserve life."
“Under the law discharging a firearm is meant to be a last resort, used by officers when they or the public face an imminent threat of death or serious injury.
That just wasn’t the situation here,” said Thomas Eicher, Executive Director of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, which investigated the case.
“This lapse of judgment, this violation of the law and police procedures, has had a steep cost for the victim, and it must have consequences.”
The complaint and the affidavit of probable cause allege:
Authorities say on June 11, Jerry Moravek acted in his capacity as a police officer with the Paterson Police Department when he engaged in a foot chase with the victim.
During that pursuit, Movarek repeatedly ordered the victim to drop the gun but never once ordered him to stop running, to get to the ground, or warn the victim that he was going to use deadly force.
As the individual continued running, Moravek discharged his duty weapon, hitting the victim in the back and rendering him unable to walk.
The body-worn camera footage does not depict the victim brandishing any firearm or pointing a firearm at the defendant, other officers, or any public member.
No gun was found in the victim’s possession nor within his reach.
OPIA investigators learned that a discarded firearm was recovered around the block from where the victim was shot along the path he had run.
However, subsequent testing on the firearm revealed no DNA or fingerprint evidence linking it to the victim, who told officers he was running because he was afraid and that he had no weapon.
The gunshot to the victim’s back left bullet fragments in his spine, leaving him unable to walk.