Pro-cop group helping Newark officer fight manslaughter charge
NEWARK — A police officer facing up to life in prison for shooting two men during a wild car chase, killing one of them, now has new legal support from a national police group.
The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF) has picked up the case of 26-year-old Jovanny Crespo, who was charged with aggravated manslaughter as well as assault and weapons charges for his actions on Jan. 28.
The events were caught on body cameras worn by both Crespo and another officer, who first attempted a traffic stop on the vehicle driven by 46-year-old Gregory Griffin, with one passenger, 35-year-old Andrew Dixon.
After the first officer called in a report of a gun in the vehicle, the men took off, sparking a lengthy chase during which Crespo was seen in the video jumping out of a police cruiser three times while shooting at them.
Griffin was killed by the gunfire, while Dixon was shot in the face, authorities told NJ.com.
"Found within the car was heroin destined for the streets of Newark and a handgun loaded with illegal hollow-point bullets," according to the LELDF.
The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund has said its core mission is "supporting the defense of wrongfully accused/charged law enforcement officers by providing funds for defense counsel, court and subsistence costs, and expert witnesses."
After Crespo was indicted by a grand jury last month, acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens told NBC New York that Crespo's action showed a "reckless disregard for human life" that went against his police training.
Mayor Ras Baraka also issued a statement last month calling Crespo's indictment "a sad day for our city and our police department, and the families of the two victims. We are under a (federal) consent decree and this shows that when police officers break the law, they will be held to the same standards as all others, particularly at a time when justice in incidents involving the police is not happening around the country."
Baraka also said the case shows the importance of equipping police with body cameras, as "the Essex County Prosecutor presented fair and unbiased evidence to a grand jury of Essex County residents, and they have returned a criminal indictment. I believe this is evidence of the transparency we have worked to establish in Newark and is critical to continuing to build trust between our police and the community.”
According to the Fund's website, "Since events in Ferguson [Missouri] in August 2014, there's been an increasing need for LELDF support to individual law enforcement officers."
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