By Steve Pomper
Police pursuing armed suspects recklessly driving a vehicle and trying to escape is about as perilous as it gets for cops. The danger exists from vehicle collisions and gunfire, all while trying not to injure or kill innocent people.
That’s what Newark, NJ Police Officer Jovanny Crespo, 26, and his partner Officer Hector Ortiz faced around 11 p.m. on January 28th, 2019. Officers Ortiz and Crespo would chase down and stop the armed felons before they could hurt a cop or other member of the public.
But rather than face accolades for their bravery, Officer Crespo is facing life in prison for manslaughter and a slew of other crimes. Sadly, this situation has become a routine story for officers with anti-cop, activist prosecutors across America.
NPA has been covering a similar situation in Blackwell, Oklahoma, where a police lieutenant stopped a mobile, active shooter. He’s still waiting to find out if the DA will prosecute him for manslaughter after delaying for over two years.
I learned of this incident through an email sent from Bo Dietl, a former NYPD detective, and notable media personality. As Dietl described it, Officer Valerie Sanchez had conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by 46-year-old Gregory Griffin. Andrew Dixon, 35, was in the front passenger’s seat.
The men refused to obey Sanchez’s orders to place their hands in view (9 times). Reportedly, Officer Sanchez then saw a gun on the seat under Griffin’s leg. Sanchez said she felt Griffin was about to reach for the gun. She retreated, broadcasted this information to alert other officers, and requested backup, as Griffin fled the scene, beginning the pursuit.
According to NBCNews.com, Ortiz and Crespo were the first officers to join the pursuit. Dietl recounts Griffin “ran red lights, ran over sidewalks, drove in the opposite lane of traffic, and bounced off parked cars.” This made the pair dangerous even without the firearm.
During the pursuit, Crespo got out of the patrol car when they caught up to the vehicle, which is when he described Dixon pointing a gun at him. The officer fired on three occasions, but the first two times, Griffin was able to speed away.
As the pair drove away, in the video, you can hear Crespo is concerned that the passenger’s door keeps opening and closing. This is a sign to officers that the occupant may bail out of the car or open the door and shoot at you.
During the third contact, again, Crespo said Dixon pointed a gun at him, so he fired. Both Griffin and Dixon were shot. Griffin died of his wounds, and Dixon was transported to the hospital with serious wounds.
Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens, appointed by liberal Governor Phil Murphy, convinced a grand jury to return an indictment, charging Crespo with six criminal counts, including for aggravated manslaughter, aggravated assault, and official misconduct.
Stephens, whom Dietl described as a “social justice attorney,” which seems accurate, said, “No other officers fired their weapons.” NBCNewYork.com reported, “No other officers fired, Crespo says, because no one else got as close and, he said, ‘I was the only one who had the gun pointed at me.’” Good point.
Nevertheless, Stephens piled on additional charges with two counts of possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes and official misconduct. Wait, Crespo was a police officer pursuing two armed men refusing to stop for police. Crespo’s job is specifically to apprehend dangerous suspects. How could he possibly have possessed a weapon for unlawful purposes? He possessed the weapon to protect himself and the public, which he did.
Stephens said, Crespo “showed a reckless disregard for human life by shooting into a moving vehicle — a vehicle which had heavily tinted windows.”
Crespo responded, Stephens “wasn’t in my shoes. He didn’t see that gun pointed directly at his face. He didn’t see that car driving erratic, putting other lives in danger. I saw a vehicle at 11 o’clock at night driving 70 mph on the other side of the road, putting lives at risk.”
Crespo defended his actions, saying, “I could have been dead. I believe my actions kept me alive. I think about my four kids I have, and I thank God I got to go home that night.” Crespo told about how in the preceding two months he’d recovered eight guns while arresting six people. He said, on the day of the shooting, their lieutenant had warned them to be expecting retaliation shootings.
Stephens challenged that Crespo could see the gun in Dixon’s hand through tinted windows. Crespo said, “That’s a lie.” He explained with the LED lights and overhead patrol car lights and a streetlight, he could see the gun. Why is the prosecutor giving the benefit of the doubt in this life or death moment to the armed criminal?
Erin Laviola, at Heavy.com, wrote, “Toward the end of the video, Crespo sits down on the sidewalk as the other officers ask if he was injured. He explains again that he shot both men in the vehicle.” This is not unusual behavior after the adrenaline dump an officer experiences and the understandable shock that may ensue.
Each officer will perceive events differently for myriad reasons. Varying angles, positions, locations, officer abilities and deficiencies, etc. The officer also must consider is the suspect likely to pose a threat to the public if he or she escapes? If they’re willing to threaten cops with guns and to drive with reckless disregard for human life to get away, what won’t they do?
Also, just because two officers only saw one gun at a given moment during the incident doesn’t mean there was only one gun in the car. Recall, the first officer to stop the men, said she saw a gun under Griffin’s leg. Crespo said he saw Dixon point a gun at him several times. How can we know there was only one gun?
The officers cannot bet their lives there is only one gun in the car or that only one suspect is armed. After the final confrontation and the last shots were fired, investigators found a loaded semi-automatic handgun on the floorboard.
It seems Stephens might do well to find some affinity with Socrates. Socrates knew how little he knew, which we believe made him wise. To the contrary, Stephens has no clue how little he knows—especially about police work.
The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF) is raising funds to support Officer Crespo’s defense.