A Paterson police officer is facing charges after shooting a fleeing man in the back last June. The incident, recorded on a body-worn camera, is being defended by the city’s mayor.
Officer Jerry Moravek is charged with aggravated assault and official misconduct, New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin said Monday at a press conference announcing the charges.
The footage shows Moravek responding to hearing shots fired and chasing Dominique Capron, 28, of Paterson, down the street. He yells for Capron to drop the gun, and then shoots him in the back.
Capron survived the shooting but is now confined to a wheelchair. The police recovered a gun but it was not near Capron when he was shot, Platkin said.
“Every officer is taught that before deadly force can be considered, there must be a threat to that officer, to a fellow officer or the public,” Platkin said.
Platkin said the body camera footage shows there was no threat to public safety when Capron was chased by the officer.
“The victim was never told to stop running. He was not warned that deadly force might be used,” Platkin said. “Unfortunately, the fact remains that Moravek fired as an unarmed subject running away without giving proper warnings.”
The mayor of Paterson defended Moravek.
“The officer ran towards the shots fired and pursued an individual whom he believed to have a gun,” Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said in a statement issued Monday. “While it is unfortunate that an individual was shot, a preliminary review reveals that the officer was following guidelines.”
The mayor says several guns and shell casings were recovered from the scene shortly after the shooting. But Platkin says there must be an imminent threat to warrant the use of deadly force.
“We have made a commitment to stand up against unnecessary and excessive uses of force by those with a duty to protect the public, enforce the law and promote justice,” Platkin said. “There is no more significant action than the use of deadly force. Not only can it result in the unnecessary loss of life or permanent injuries and disabilities, but instances of uncalled-for, disproportional and destructive use of deadly force sow distrust in, and erodes respect for, law enforcement among the community,”