NJ man reported cops’ boozy antics — then they retaliated, officials say
ASBURY PARK — Ernest Mignoli is 70 years old and likes to keep an eye on police officials and report on their misconduct. Sometimes he writes articles for his websites; sometimes he files formal reports at police headquarters.
Not everybody is a fan.
Monmouth County prosecutors have charged two city cops with retaliating against Mignoli during the early hours of Sept. 3 by slashing the tires of his Prius, which was parked at an Ocean Grove hotel where he was spending the night, as well as the tires of his Jeep, which was parked outside his home in Asbury Park. Both vehicles also sustained other damage.
Officials said the vandalism was payback for Mignoli filing reports against Officer Stephen Martinsen, 29, and Class 2 Special Law Enforcement Officer Thomas Dowling, 26.
Mignoli told New Jersey 101.5 that he has filed several reports since June regarding drinking and inappropriate behavior by several police officers and firefighters, not just Martinsen and Dowling.
A few evenings before his vehicles were vandalized, Mignoli said he filed an internal affairs complaint after witnessing an apparently drunk cop outside Johnny Mac House of Spirits, a cop watering hole across the street from police headquarters. Mignoli said the cop was riding an electric scooter on the sidewalk, which is not allowed, and "dangerously doing tricks for the public."
He also filed police reports after seeing alcohol drinking at Asbury Park High School during a police and firefighter softball game on June 9, as well as at a police event at the Asbury Park Transportation Center on June 18.
Mignoli said his Jeep also was vandalized a year ago outside his home, which he believes is connected to his ongoing questioning of local police. Nobody was charged in connection with that incident.
In the latest incident, officials said the cops used a police knife to slash the tires and scratch the vehicles. A window on the Jeep was blown out. Mignoli said blood was left on the glass.
"What they did to my car was an example of anger and hate," Mignoli said.
Investigators said the cops wore disguises and traveled to the two locations on bicycles.
"Who put them up to it? There is no chance they did this on their own," Mignoli said.
Martinsen and Dowling have been charged with third-degree conspiracy, fourth-degree possession of a knife and possession of a knife for an unlawful purpose, and fourth-degree criminal mischief. Martinsen was suspended without pay while Dowling has been fired.
When he announced the arrests earlier this month, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said "such behavior will never be acceptable or tolerated."
In the same statement, Police Chief David Kelso said that the officers' "behavior is not acceptable and does not represent the level of professionalism, community focus or resident safety that we expect of our officers.”
Mignoli believes that investigators must have found witnesses and security footage in order to make the arrests within a day.
"That’s what makes the case," he said. "The evidence is irrefutable."
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.