‘I don’t want you dying, OK?’ Cops offered help before man died in custody
TOTOWA — Body camera footage released Friday by the state Attorney General’s Office shows the moments surrounding a 51-year-old man's death while in police custody this summer, after he suffered a medical episode during a traffic stop.
Sergio Rodriguez, of Paterson, died on June 27 after he was arrested by state troopers on charges related to suspected heroin in the car he was driving. The arrest came during a traffic stop right outside the State Police Totowa Substation on Minnisink Road near Route 80.
In footage from two body cameras and one police cruiser dashboard camera released Friday, Rodriguez says several different times that he is diabetic and needs insulin, and trooper Marc Concato asks several different times if Rodriguez needs EMS to come and give him insulin.
Rodriguez also says he has had open heart surgery and separately says he has suffered three heart attacks.
After being pulled over just before 11:30 a.m., Rodriguez is placed under arrest after Concato discovers the suspected heroin in the vehicle, as seen in the video clips.
The footage shows Rodriguez handcuffed and patted down, and led to the backseat of a parked police SUV with its door open. Concato's partner stands with Rodriguez, who at times rests against the back seat, with his feet still on the pavement.
Concato asks Rodriguez if he wants EMS to be called as “you’re going to be here a while,” saying it would be over an hour, to which Rodriguez says “I don’t want my family to know about all this stuff."
“Listen, I don’t want you dying, OK? You said you’re a diabetic, you said you haven’t any insulin,” Concato says in the footage, and Rodriguez adds, “And I had three heart attacks.”
Concato then goes to request EMS from his vehicle radio while his partner continues to stand with Rodriguez.
The other trooper is heard in the footage asking Rodriguez to sit down and try to relax and at one point helps him adjust the waistband of his shorts from slipping.
In the camera footage, Rodriguez says that the car is clean and that he can call a woman who he had just given a ride to before being pulled over.
Rodriguez then says "I'm just starting to get dizzy" and about 10 seconds later, he slumps partially forward, as the trooper is seen in the video moving to catch him from falling.
The trooper tries to get Rodriguez standing upright and asks him "did you take meth today," before asking another law enforcement officer "can we just give this guy Narcan or something?"
Rodriguez was taken to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, where he was pronounced dead just after 1 p.m.
The Office of the Attorney General said an autopsy report was received from the Medical Examiner earlier this month, without disclosing a cause of death that was determined for Rodriguez.
There are other recordings, including of first-responders giving aid to Rodriguez, that were not released Friday because they did not capture the traffic stop, arrest, or police interaction with Rodriguez, according to the Attorney General's Office.
Video footage of troopers and paramedics rendering aid to Rodriguez also was being withheld for privacy reasons, but was shared with the family, the AG's office said.
The other state troopers who arrived at the scene to assist were previously identified as Troopers Jeremy Chmiel, Michael Rivetti, Edgar Rodriguez, Gary Rokoszak, and Emmanuel Roman.
The death continues to be investigated since it happened in law enforcement custody, under a state law in effect since last year.
The case next will be heard by a grand jury, which has not yet resumed amid the pandemic.