Friday, October 31, 2014

Prosecutor releases some information, denies the rest, regarding 2013 Perth Amboy Police shooting of special needs man.

On December 4, 2013, at about 1:20 p.m., Perth Amboy Police Officers Rafael A. Puntiel and Gina Fontan fatally shot Dixon Rodriguez, 32, of Hall Avenue.  According to the officers, Rodriguez attacked Fontan with a knife.

News reports issued within a day after the shooting quoted Rodriguez's neighbors saying that they were skeptical of law enforcement's claim that Rodriguez had threatened the officers.  Some said that he "had the mind of a 6-year-old" and that "he's never hurt anybody."

In a December 6, 2013 news article, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's office claimed that a video, taken from a surveillance camera at a nearby grocery store, supported the officers' version of the shooting.

A December 7, 2013 article revealed that the Prosecutor's Office released 911 tapes from Rodriguez's mother indicating that her son was violent because she had not given him his medication.

On October 9, 2014, I submitted an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and common law right of access request for "the use of force reports filed by the officer(s) who pulled the trigger, all witness statements taken from anyone and a copy of the video (and audio, if any) that captured the shooting."

On October 23, 2014, James E. O'Neill, Public Information Officer for the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office released the use of force reports (on-line here) which were filed by the officers on December 19, 2013 and show that both officers fired an "unknown" number of shots which struck Rodriguez an "unknown" number of times.  And, even though I did not request them, O'Neill provided me with .wav files of two 911 call, on-line here and here, that are in Spanish from a female caller--presumably Rodriguez's mother.

O'Neill denied access to the witness statements and the video that captured the event from a nearby grocery store. "These documents are part of a criminal investigatory record and are exempt from public disclosure," he wrote.

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