Why State Police say they smashed this speeding driver’s window
Video published by NJ.com via YouTube
New Jersey State Police — being sued after smashing out a man's car window during a motor-vehicle stop the man's girlfriend recorded on video — say they can't comment on pending litigation.
But they have released a synopsis of the events leading up to 20-year-old Dennis Ortiz's arrest in April of last year, which his attorney maintains was a case of racial profiling.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, Ortiz says after he was pulled over for allegedly driving 110 mph on Route 78 in Hunterdon County, he cooperated with officers, and got out of the car to take a roadside sobriety test, which he passed.
In the video made by Ortiz's girlfriend, sitting in the passenger seat, he next returns to the car, and is asked by a trooper to step outside again so they can have a discussion. The trooper tells Ortiz he's not under arrest, and Ortiz refuses to leave the car, saying they can speak while he remains there.
It's only as that argument escalates that another trooper is heard multiple times saying "He's now under arrest." A few seconds later, a trooper smashes in the window to apprehend him.
State Police, in an account posted to their Facebook page Monday, said Trooper Robert Murray smelled an alcoholic beverage in the car — but also said Ortiz passed his roadside sobriety test.
It was at that point, State Police said, Murray found Ortiz's license was expired. He also found Ortiz's passenger, the girlfriend, had exhibited signs of intoxication, State Police said — though they didn't offer detail as to what those signs were.
Since neither could legally drive the vehicle, State Police said, Murray called for a tow before returning to the car to tell Ortiz to exit.
"Trooper Murray returned to the vehicle and instructed Mr. Ortiz to exit. Despite several requests, Mr. Ortiz refused to comply. As a result, Trooper Murray broke the driver's side window, unlocked the door, and placed Mr. Ortiz under arrest," State Police wrote.
Ortiz was charged with obstruction and resisting arrest, and was released pending a future court date, according to State Police He was also issued traffic summonses for speeding, reckless driving, and driving while unlicensed.
However, according to Oritz's attorney, only the speeding ticket stuck — he pleaded guilty in September 2014 to driving 79 mph in a 65 mph zone. The criminal complaints were dismissed, and the unlicensed driver ticket was amended to failure to exhibit.
In an interview with New Jersey 101.5, attorney Joel Silberman said he doesn't believe his client was being racially profiled when first stopped — since it was dark, and anyone driving so fast would likely be pulled over.
But he said troopers escalated the situation even after they knew Ortiz wasn't drunk and he'd cooperated with the DWI test.
Throughout the incident, Silberman said, "There’s just this overarching theme that they wanted to get in this vehicle or do further investigation that I don’t think if you or I were pulled over for speeding — well, I don't know what you look like — I don’t know if I were pulled over, would have happened."
Ortiz has dreadlocks, a dark complexion and several tattoos.
In a version of the video published by the Jersey Journal Monday and seen above, the stop is seen in several segments that have been edited together. New Jersey 101.5 has requested a copy of the original video from Silberman.
The full State Police statement is below: