Cop who shot man dead in Union bar fight charged with manslaughter
UNION TOWNSHIP (Union) — The Newark officer who shot and killed a Piscataway man after a bar fight in May has been indicted on a charge of second-degree manslaughter.
The indictment ends months of speculation about what consequences Officer Joseph Macchia, 35, might face in connection with the shooting, which the Union County Prosecutor's Office says happened after a fight between the officer and 37-year-old Michael Gaffney ended, then flared back up.
Convictions for second-degree charges typically result in prison sentences of 5 to 10 years in state prison, the prosecutor's office said in announcing the indictment.
According to the prosecutor's office, Union Township Police responded to Paddy's Place on Rosemont Avenue North in Union early on Friday, May 13, and found Gaffney dead at the scene.
Investigators determined Gaffney and Macchia had been involved in a physical altercation outside of the bar, but then separated after several minutes, the prosecutor's office said.
"However, several minutes later, they reengaged in a second physical altercation," the prosecutor's office wrote in its announcement. During the course of that second altercation, Macchia fired his service weapon multiple times, fatally shooting Gaffney."
Macchia turned himself in to authorities Wednesday afternoon, and bail in the case was set at $100,000, the prosecutor's office said.
Friends and relatives of Gaffney's have maintained Macchia shouldn't have been allowed in a bar, intending to drink, with his service weapon — though the announcement by the prosecutor's office does not indicate whether officials believe alcohol was a factor in the incident.
More than 5,000 people have signed a petition looking to make entering a bar, intending to drink while carrying a service weapon illegal. Supporters of the measure call it "Gaffney's Law."
New Jersey law has no provision preventing a person authorized to carry or handle a weapon from doing so while drinking or at a bar — whether that person is law enforcement or not. Other states that more freely grant permits to carry weapons often have stricter rules about drinking.
“He was a hard working man for his family,” Gaffney’s mother, Judy Valdes, of Bayville, told New Jersey 101.5 on Tuesday. “They are portraying him to be this monster that he is not. I raised him to be the man he became and the father he was.”
Although officials had released very few details, the Newark police union president on the day of the incident in May that the officer “was justified in his actions” and that surveillance video capturing the incident would bear that out.
Friends and family of Gaffney's said for months they wanted to see Macchia charged, and some said they were frustrated by a lack of information from authorities. Prosecutors rarely comment at length about cases still under active investigation.
“I think there’s sort of a general frustration with residents just because there’s never really any public comment about what happened when the event took place or since then,” Jason Krychiw said at a township meeting in July
Those who knew Gaffney have told New Jersey 101.5 that while he and Macchia knew each other, and traveled in some of the same social circles, they weren't friends.
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