Man fought and choked NJ cop, but cop ‘used restraint,’ officials say
Everybody goes home ... even the suspect.
Camden County Police say that's the mantra they live by on the job, and that it was reflected in the actions of an officer who authorities say "used restraint" while he was being attacked and choked by a suspect late last week.
Camden County police say Officer Luis Gonzalez was on foot patrol Thursday when he was approached by Felix Gutierrez, 25, of Pennsauken. According to authorities, Gutierrez said "he wanted to fight" the officer.
Police said Gutierrez reached for an object in the waistband of his pants as he continued to challenge the officer to a physical altercation before running from the scene, with the officer in pursuit.
About one block into the chase, police said in an announcement about the incident, Gutierrez "brandished a silver object and yelled to Officer Gonzalez asking if Officer Gonzalez would shoot him."
"Officer Gonzalez showed restraint and observed that the object in his hand was a lighter and not a firearm," authorities said.
According to police, Gutierrez allegedly then tried to punch the officer before tackling him to the ground. The officer resisted and Gutierrez began choking him "so that he could not breathe."
That's when another member of the Camden County Police Department, Officer Jae An, arrived at the location.
"After observing Officer Gonzalez’s life in danger," police said, An pulled Gutierrez away from the patrolman as Officer Kenneth Egan arrived. As Gutierrez continued to resist, Egan used a Taser "to stop the suspect from attacking," police said.
Gutierrez was arrested and transported to Cooper University Hospital for an evaluation, according to police. He was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. He remains under evaluation at the hospital, police said.
Camden County Police Department Spokesman Dan Keashen commended Officer Gonzalez for his restraint and not using deadly force even as he was "under duress and being suffocated by the suspect." He said even in such situations, "the ideal situation is that everybody goes home, even the suspect."
"It's a mantra and philosophy that has been part of this police department for a long time," Keashen told NJ 101.5.
The spokesman said even in situations where officers have to use deadly force, they will still make an effort to get the suspect immediate medical treatment.
"It's a last resort, and if it has to be used, we do everything we can to try to preserve life," Keashen said.
Gonzalez, the spokesman said, was one of a handful of officers who met President Barack Obama when he visited Camden last May.
"This is a guy we know is really a good officer and took community policing to the next level and understands the preservation of life," Keashen said of Gonzalez.
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.