Family Says Redwood Avenue Victim Was Shot in the Head and Chest by City Police; Officers Placed On Leave
Tuesday, September 4, 2012 • 2:57pm
PATERSON, NJ – The city man killed by Paterson police officers at his Redwood Avenue home on Saturday was shot once in the head and once in the chest, according to his brother.
The deceased, Salvatore Del Rosario, suffered from epilepsy and had locked himself in the bathroom to avoid being taken to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center to take his medication, said the brother, Junior Reyes.
So Del Rosario’s family called for an ambulance, Reyes said. But two police officers arrived on the scene before the ambulance did and they soon were joined by five or six other officers, Reyes said. When Del Rosario’s son saw the officers draw their guns as they prepared to break down the bathroom door, he asked the police to leave the apartment and to allow the family to take care of the situation, Reyes said.
“They said, ‘We’ll get him to the hospital,’’’ Reyes said.
But the officers proceeded to kick down the door and ended up shooting Del Rosario to death when he confronted them with a hammer, said Reyes.
“It’s messed up,’’ said Reyes. “You don’t want your loved one to die like this.’’
The case is being investigated by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office. So far, the prosecutor has confirmed that a man was killed at 10 Redwood Avenue in a shooting involving Paterson police officers. But authorities have released no other information, such as the officers’ names, the identity of the deceased, where he was shot or how many times he was shot, or even a basic narrative of the incident.
“The investigation is still active and on-going,’’ said Senior Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor Neil Cleary. “Our office will review the matter and it will be reviewed by a grand jury. There will be no further comment until the investigation and review process are completed.’’
Paterson Police Director Glenn Brown said at least two of the officers involved in the shooting have been placed on “post-stress” administrative leave. When asked for their names, Brown said, “The prosecutor’s office will release that when they feel it’s appropriate.’’
Del Rosario spoke little English, according to his brother, and may not have understood the police officers demands that he drop the hammer. The deceased’s children, who were at apartment during the incident, had explained to the officers that Del Rosario was “sick” and told the officers they should be careful in dealing with him, Reyes said. They also told the officers of the language barrier, he said.
The killing has triggered anger and frustration among Del Rosario’s family members, friends, and community leaders.
“They never expected a simple phone call for an ambulance would result in a death in the family,’’ said Councilman Rigo Rodriguez.
“You should have a different way to control a person than shooting him in the head,’’ said Pedro Rodriguez, a former school board member who ran for city council in 1st Ward and has spoken to family members about the incident.
Pedro Rodriguez wondered why the officers did not use pepper spray or tasers. City police officers normally carry pepper spray, but not tasors, according to Brown. Officials have not said whether the officers involved in the shooting had pepper spray on them at that time.
“This is what happens when you have cops from other towns come in address issues in our town,’’ said Rigo Rodriguez. “They come paranoid.’’
When asked what made him say the officers were from other towns, Rodriguez responded, “They didn’t speak the language.’’ Authorities have not said whether any of the police officers at the scene spoke Spanish.
Other city council member said they did not have enough information available to assess the police officers’ actions in the shooting.
“I do not have an opinion because I do not have all the facts,’’ said City Council President Anthony Davis, who represents the 1st Ward. “I want to make sure they do a thorough investigation. I think when people interfere with law enforcement procedures, things get out of whack.’’
Councilman Kenneth Morris said the prosecutor’s office was doing the “right thing” by not releasing details until the investigation has clarified what transpired.
There have been two other instances this year in which city law enforcement officers were involved in residents’ deaths.
On January 1, Police officer Javier Gutierrez shot and killed Jacobe Hyatt during an incident on Broadway. In August, a grand jury determined that Gutierrez was justified in using deadly force and no charges were filed against him, according to the prosecutor's office. Autopsy results have showed he was shot in the back. [Editor's note: An earlier versio of this story erroneously said the grand jury had not yet been convened.]
On April 17, Randolph Waddy was killed in a motorcycle crash that resulted in official misconduct charges against two auxiliary police officers – Juan Martinez and Jonathan Lopez - for their actions while following Waddy in the 1st Ward. Brown subsequently suspended the operation of the city’s auxiliary police program. Waddy’s family members have asserted that more severe charges ought to be imposed against the auxiliary officers, who they say ran into Waddy from behind. They have asked the Attorney General to examine the case.