Editor’s note: scroll to the bottom of the page to see the uncut body-cam footage from the night of the shooting.
NEWARK, N.J. – An officer in New Jersey that’s facing charges after shooting and killing a suspect is getting some serious help from a law enforcement organization.
According to group’s president, Jason C. Johnson, the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund is picking up the tab for the officer’s legal fees.
The defense fund’s board of directors voted to provide financial support as Newark officer Jovanny Crespo defends himself against charges including aggravated manslaughter, reported NJ.com.
Body-cam footage of the incident was released in the middle of May. The video shows 26-year-old Jovanny Crespo repeatedly jumping out of his squad car and attempting to stop 46-year-old Gregory C. Griffin as he fled. Griffin was reportedly armed. During his attempts to stop the vehicle, Crespo can be seen opening fire on the suspect multiple times.
He now faces charges of aggravated manslaughter, aggravated assault, and two counts each of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and official misconduct in the January incident, according to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
When asked why the organization wanted to support Crespo, Johnson said it was clear that the officer was facing a dangerous, armed person.
“We look for cases where we really believe what the officer did was lawful and consistent with what society expects officers to do,” Johnson said.
Crespo’s lawyer argues that the officer was just doing his job, and doing it well.
“What I see on the video was stellar police work,” Atty. Patrick Toscano said. He said Crespo “was the only one with the courage and guts to run up to the vehicle.”
Judge Ronald D. Wigler allowed the defendant to remain free while awaiting trial, noting that Crespo wouldn’t pose a threat to any person or the community, nor would he flee or fail to appear in court. Crespo was released under the condition that he surrender any firearms and report to a court officer weekly.
Crespo is reportedly married and a father of four. His lawyer says the officer is concerned about how he will feed his family. He has been suspended from his department without pay since February.
The chase began when Griffin took off from a traffic stop when an officer reportedly noticed a handgun in his vehicle.
Crespo can be seen riding in the front passenger seat of another officer’s vehicle while in pursuit of a vehicle. He jumps out of the vehicle and attempts to stop the driver, but the car speeds off. Crespo opens fire as the car drives away.
Crespo calls, “shots fired!” over the radio. He jumps into another officer’s car and continues the pursuit. The other officer in the car can be heard telling Crespo to ‘relax’ as the chase continues.
“Let me go,” Crespo says as he opens the door another time. “Get in!” his fellow officer tells him.
As he exits the passenger side of the car, he opens fire again, squeezing off two shots directly at the fleeing car.
“I think I shot him,” he says as he gets back in the cruiser. “He pointed the gun right at me,” he said about the fleeing driver.
Eventually the pair catch up with the driver and Crespo exits the vehicle again. He can be seen approaching the passenger side of the vehicle, yelling, “Stop the car!” as he fires another two shots.
Two men are seen inside the car as Crespo tells them not to reach for anything. Both were hit by gunfire.
“I shot him in the head,” can be heard in the ensuing commotion. “Two guys hit,” another officer says as EMS is called.
Crespo was then arrested and was booked at the Essex County Jail.
While shooting at a vehicle is not against police regulations in New Jersey, the State Attorney General’s use-of-force guidelines discourage it because of the increased risk to innocent bystanders. That action should only be taken when there’s an “imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or another person.”
The President of the local FOP spoke in support of Crespo’s career as an officer following the arrest.
Newark Cop Charged in Traffic Stop Shooting That Left 1 Man Dead.
Prosecutors say officer Jovanny Crespo is charged with aggravated manslaughter & two counts of second degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. #JovannyCrespohttps://t.co/jyfcoIQuK8
— Shomari Stone (@shomaristone) May 22, 2019
“The Newark FOP fully supports him, and his family, and we look forward to the next step in this process, which will be a courtroom, where a jury will hear the fully story of what occurred that night, not just a portion of the events,”the FOP President said, attributing his work as “one of the reasons crime is down in Newark.”
The full body-cam video is uncut and available here.