NJ trooper suspended for not reporting cop who broke cousin’s jaw
LODI — A State Police trooper was punished for not turning in a colleague who was accused of breaking his cousin’s jaw in a fight.
Brandon Bruns, an 18-year veteran of the force, was suspended for 30 days after officials determined that he should have officially reported to superiors when he learned that Trooper Victor Pereira had gotten into a fight with his cousin at a Garfield bar in 2013. Officials said Pereira followed his cousin home to Lodi, where he punched him.
Pereira was charged with aggravated assault and suspended without pay after his superiors eventually found out what happened and investigated.
New Jersey 101.5 did not know Friday the status of the criminal case. A public court database had no record of conviction for Pereira. State pension records show that he remains on the State Police payroll earning an $88,500 salary.
Bruns appealed the internal State Police charge that he failed to report Pereira’s misconduct, arguing that he was not required to report something that happened while he was not on duty.
He also believed that Lodi police, who charged Pereira with a crime a week after the fight, would have informed State Police about what happened.
An administrative law judge in June 2016 upheld the internal workplace charge against Bruns and recommended the 30-day suspension.
Bruns appealed to Superior Court but lost in a decision released Friday.
“It would make no sense to interpret the rule so that a member of the NJSP would have no duty to report a crime, breach of the peace, fires, misconduct, or other such significant event merely because information about the event came to the member’s attention during his or her ‘off-duty’ hours,” the appellate judges said Friday.
Police rules requires that officers promptly report “all crimes, breaches of the peace, suicides, attempted suicides, fires, accidents, complaints, misconduct, or other information […] that may come to the member’s attention, during the performance of such member’s duty. A member shall not withhold any information on such matters for any reason.”
According to the appellate decision's summary of the internal investigation, Bruns was at the bar when he saw Pereira argue with his cousin. The bar owner kicked them out and police were called but did not arrest anyone.
Later, Bruns said the cousin called him to say that his jaw had been broken. Bruns went to the cousin's house and followed him to the hospital, where the cousin told him Pereira had punched him, the appellate decision says.
Bruns told a friend on the force about what happened but no official report was filed until Pereira's supervisor got word of the incident three days later.
The appellate decision notes that Bruns had been punished before, with a written reprimand in 2007 and a 2012 suspension for 90 days. The decision does not explain what the discipline was for.
Pereira also has been accused of other wrongdoing.
In 2013, the State Police agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit for $500,000. The father of a 25-year-old man Pereira had arrested in 2008 in Hanover claimed that Pereira beat his son after an arrest for two-year-old warrants on charges of stealing candy and jumping a turnstile at Newark Penn Station.
A state investigation found that the man, David Jenkins, arched his back and put his own head through the backseat window of a patrol car. He died a week later in the hospital.
A grand jury declined to charge Pereira or his partner, David Jenkins, for any wrongdoing.
A 2014 investigation by the Star-Ledger raised doubts about the official narrative after independent experts who reviewed the autopsy report at the newspaper’s request determined that the man may have suffocated when he died.
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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.