On September 17, 2019, four Jersey City Police Officers agreed to give up their jobs and agreed to be forever barred from public employment in law enforcement when they entered into a plea agreement as a result of their conduct during and immediately following a high speed police chase throughout Jersey City in 2017.
The plea agreement resolves an indictment against the police officers for their involvement in the incident that began on the night of June 4, 2017 when defendant Leo Pinkston led police on a high speed motor vehicle pursuit and ended when Pinkston crashed his fleeing vehicle into a vehicle driven by Miguel Feliz-Rodriguez.
Jersey City Police Officer MD Khan pleaded guilty to Aggravated Assault in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(7), a third-degree crime, for his attempt to cause significant bodily injury to Miguel Feliz- Rodriguez. Pursuant to the plea, Khan will forfeit his position with the Jersey City Police Department and will be forever barred from any future public employment. He will also be subject to a period of probationary supervision.
Jersey City Police Officer Eric Kosinski pleaded guilty to Endangering Another Person in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:24-7.1a(2) by creating a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another, a fourth-degree crime. Pursuant to the plea, he will resign his position with the Jersey City Police Department and will be forever barred from any future public employment in the field of law enforcement. Kosinski will be required to enter into and complete the Pretrial Intervention Program.
Jersey City Police Officer Francisco Rodriguez pleaded guilty to Endangering Another Person in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:24-7.1a(2) by creating a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another, a fourth-degree crime. Pursuant to the plea, he will resign his position with the Jersey City Police Department and will be forever barred from any future public employment in the field of law enforcement. Rodriguez will be required to enter into and complete the Pretrial Intervention Program.
Jersey City Police Lieutenant Keith Ludwig will be required to enter into and complete the Pretrial Intervention Program. He will also be compelled to retire from the Jersey City Police Department and will be permanently barred from public employment in the field of law enforcement.
The incident that gave rise to the indictment began on Sunday, June 4, 2017, shortly after 11 p.m., when members of the Jersey City Police Department attempted to stop a motor vehicle in the area of Ocean and Cator avenues in Jersey City. The driver, Leo Pinkston, age 48, of Jersey City, fled the area and eluded police officers for approximately six miles within the confines of Jersey City. While fleeing, Pinkston led police officers on a dangerous high speed chase, jeopardizing the safety of police officers and the community. During the eluding, Pinkston drove at police, crashed into civilian cars, and crashed into and drove through a police car. At times, the vehicle reached speeds of 60 miles per hour.
In the area of Carlton and Tonnelle avenues, Officers Kosinski and Khan discharged their firearms in the direction of the vehicle driven by Pinkston. In the intersection of Manhattan and Tonnelle avenues, Officer Rodriguez discharged his firearm at the fleeing vehicle driven by Pinkston.
Pinkston continued to drive north on Tonnelle Avenue, ultimately crashing his vehicle into a vehicle being driven by the victim, Miguel Feliz-Rodriguez, age 28, of West New York, which caused a collision with a utility pole and both vehicles ignited in fire.
Cell phone video depicts Feliz-Rodriguez extricating himself while on fire from his crashed and burning car. Lt. Ludwig was the first officer to arrive on the scene. The cell phone video appears to show Lt. Ludwig striking Feliz-Rodriguez with his foot. A second surveillance video recovered as a result of the investigation appears to show the physical contact by Lt. Ludwig in the context of fire suppression.
The cell phone video and the surveillance video recovered from the scene also depicts another police officer, now identified as Officer Khan, running in and kicking Feliz-Rodriguez.
Feliz-Rodriguez was subsequently transported by Emergency Medical Services to St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston where he was treated for his severe injuries.
On February 5, 2018, Pinkston pleaded guilty to Eluding, a second-degree crime, and Aggravated Assault, a fourth-degree crime. He was sentenced on March 16, 2018 to five years in jail for the second-degree crime and 18 months in jail for the fourth-degree crime, to be served concurrently in New Jersey State Prison.
The victim, Miguel Feliz-Rodriguez, was consulted on all aspects of the plea agreement and concurs with the resolution. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.5d, the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey reviewed and ultimately authorized the Pretrial Intervention aspects of the resolution of this case.
“This agreement is substantive in that it provides accountability for the actions of the police officers while at the same time taking into account the input of the victim,” said Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez. “It is the most fair and just resolution in a difficult case.”
Sentencing for Khan has been scheduled for November 7, 2019 before the Honorable Mitzy Galis- Menendez, P.J.S.C., who accepted his guilty plea.
The State is represented by Assistant Prosecutor Karyn Darish of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office Public Integrity Unit.