Video seems to catch NJ police kicking victim of fiery crash
JERSEY CITY — Newly released video of the fiery crash that ended a police pursuit on Sunday night seems to show police kicking a man outside of a flaming car — a man the prosecutor's office has identified as an innocent victim.
But Carmine Disbrow, president of the Jersey City Police Officer's Benevolent Association, says he believes the video shows officers actually trying to help the man in question.
"Taking swift action isn't always elegant, but this video clearly shows that the officers acted quickly to extinguish the flames, and pull this man out of harm's way," he said.
The subject of the pursuit was 48-year-old city resident Leo Pinkston. According to the prosecutor's office, police had tried to stop his vehicle in the area of Ocean and Cator avenues. The vehicle fled, and was pursued by officers, the prosecutor's office said.
During the pursuit, Pinkston's vehicle was involved in at least two automobile crashes, the prosecutor's office said. The first happened as Pinkston tried to drive between two lanes of traffic, it said. Police officers fired multiple shots at Pinkston, according to the prosecutor's office.
Several blocks later, Pinkston crashed into a utility pole, causing a fire "and injuring an innocent male victim," also driving on the same road, the prosecutor's office said. That victim — whom authorities say is the man seen in the new video — was taken to the Burn Center at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston with severe burns, according to the prosecutor's office.
The new video was obtained and published by Univision, and then republished by NJ.com, as seen above. In it, the man appears to get out of his car with his clothing on fire before police kick and hit him on the ground.
Jersey City Spokesperson Jennifer Morrill said the investigation has been turned over to the prosecutor's office, and added that the city has "serious concerns about the conduct of this pursuit."
"However, we are reserving judgement until the conclusion of the prosecutor's investigation," she said.
Morrill said the city is "working with the HCPO and are in the process of identifying the officers on this video."
Once they're identified, the city will be "seeking termination in addition to any possible criminal penalties in appropriate cases," Morrill said.
Hudson County Prosecutor Edith Suarez said the video will be added to the evidence being used to investigate the incident.
"Our investigators have reviewed the video and we believe with certainty that this man is the bystander from West New York who suffered burns, not Leo Pinkston, the individual pursued by police," he said. "We will utilize all resources available to the prosecutor's office for a full and thorough investigation as we seek to bring this matter to a rightful conclusion."
Suarez encouraged anyone with information "however insignificant" to the contact prosecutor's office by calling 201-915-1345. Video can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or information can be sent through the office's website.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com