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Video: New Jersey Cop Hears Gunshots, Shoots First Black Man He Saw Running. AG Announces Charges Against the Officer After Bodycam Footage Was Released.

A New Jersey police officer has been charged with assault after a prosecutor found he violated the state’s use-of-force policy when he shot a Black man in the back and paralyzed him. The shooting happened in Paterson on June 11 of last year.

Officer Jerry Moravek of the Paterson Police Department was charged with second-degree aggravated assault and second-degree official misconduct for shooting 28-year-old Khalif Cooper in the back, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced Monday.

New Jersey officer charged shooting black man in the back
Attorney General Matt Platkin announces charges during press conference. (New Jersey AOG YT Video Screengrab)

Cooper was left with bullet fragments in his spine and paralyzed after the police responded to a public street gathering outside of several apartment buildings near Garrison Street at around 7:30 p.m.

The video begins with Moravek arriving on the scene and telling everyone that they needed to leave due to a noise complaint. He’s heard speaking with another officer regarding a suspect with a gun. The unidentified officer makes reference to apprehending a suspect and having the weapon.

Moments later, gunfire can is heard in the distance. Moravek ran toward the gunfire near Marion Street while yelling, “Shots fired! Shots Fired!”

After Moravek saw Cooper running in the opposite direction from the sound of the gunfire, he changed course and began chasing Cooper before he shot him in the back.

“Yo! White hoodie! Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” Moravek yelled.

Moravek, 40, is never heard on the video telling Cooper to stop running or to get on the ground. He also never warned Cooper that he would shoot him before opening fire twice and hitting him in the lower back.

Attorney General Matt Platkin noted at a press conference, “The victim was never told to stop running. He was not warned that deadly force might be used. Unfortunately, the fact remains that Moravek fired as an unarmed subject running away without giving proper warnings.”

Cooper is heard repeatedly telling Moravek that he didn’t have a gun as he laid face-down on the ground after being shot. “I don’t got no gun. I don’t got no gun,” he said calmly as Moravek yelled, “Turn around!”

After he handcuffed Cooper, Moravek asked him, “Why did you run from me?”

“I was scared,” Cooper replied. “But I don’t got no gun though.”

Platkin announced the charges during the press conference on Feb. 6. He said that Moravek violated the state’s use of force policies, which only allows officers to use deadly force to protect themselves or the public from imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.

“I felt strongly that it was necessary to gather here today to recognize the important and significant actions that we took this morning,” said Platkin. “Earlier this morning, my office charged Paterson police officer Jerry Moravek with aggravated assault and official misconduct in a case where the unnecessary use of deadly force led to life-altering injuries for a young man in our state.”

“I want to be clear,” he added. “This is a solemn moment to bring charges like this. And we recognize the efforts of the men and women in law enforcement throughout our state who serve with dignity and honor every single day.”

“Every case deserves a thorough investigation and here we have determined that the use of deadly force was not justified,” read a statement released by Platkin’s office. “A young man’s life will never be the same because of the unnecessary action by this officer, which contradicted his police training and his oath to protect and preserve life.”

The city’s mayor, Andre Sayegh, released a statement defending the police officer and claimed that Moravek was following the guidelines. “The officer ran towards the shots fired and pursued an individual whom he believed to have a gun,” said Sayegh. “While it is unfortunate that an individual was shot, a preliminary review reveals that the officer was following guidelines. Several guns and shell casings were recovered from the scene.”

Passaic County authorities also claimed that Cooper had a gun, but the Attorney General’s Office refuted the claim in a statement. “The body-worn camera footage does not depict the victim brandishing any firearm or pointing a firearm at the defendant, other officers or any member of the public,” read the statement. “No gun was found in the victim’s possession nor within his reach.”

Moravek’s attorney Patrick J. Caserta said the attorney general had rushed to judgment in charging the officer. He also claimed that Moravek shot Cooper because he saw him with a gun and was afraid for his safety. However, Cooper’s DNA was not found on a weapon recovered around the block from the shooting, nor were his fingerprints.

Moravek is facing 10 years behind bars for each charge should he be convicted.

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