A frantic, high-speed police chase in Jersey City, New Jersey, last weekend ended with a fiery car crash and the swift and violent apprehension of the man who emerged from the wreckage engulfed in flames. Now, the police officers involved are facing a different kind of fire.
The man apprehended by police on Sunday was not the driver of the car they were chasing, but an innocent driver of another car the suspect allegedly crashed into. That man, Miguel Feliz, remains hospitalized with burns and possible injuries suffered as a result of his rough treatment at the hands, and feet, of Jersey City's finest, who allegedly kicked and dragged him. Even with the investigation still in its early stages, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop is already calling for the officers to be fired and even face criminal charges.
"I don't think there's any explanation that would justify their actions," Fulop told NBC New York. "The entire pursuit that was previous to that fiery crash had questionable judgment calls from the officers, from the shootings to continuing to pursue the car."
Feliz was reportedly driving home from work on Sunday night when a car driven by Leo Pinkston allegedly slammed into him, causing the explosion. In a video taken by a bystander, Feliz emerged from the flames, with his body partially on fire. He rolled around and removed his shirt, appearing to extinguish the fire as several police officers approached with their guns drawn. The person filming the scene cried out for police to "help him." Instead, an officer appeared to kick Feliz in the head or chest, causing him to collapse. Others then joined in before dragging Feliz's burned body across the sidewalk and into the road.
Carmine Disbrow, president of the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association, had a different take on what the video showed, saying the officers were actually trying to help Feliz.
"Taking swift action isn't always elegant, but this video clearly shows that the officers acted quickly to extinguish the flames, and pull this man out of harm's way," he told PIX11 in a statement on Wednesday.
Disbrow's interpretation of the video, which is dark and taken from a distance, is one that Fulop does not agree with days later.
On Thursday, Fulop said in a press conference that he wasn't just concerned with how Feliz was treated, but also how the car chase that preceded it was handled, including officers firing guns at Pinkston from their cars.
"It's one [bad decision] after the other," Fulop said.
The identities of the officers involved have not been released.
As for Pinkston, he was charged with eluding police and aggravated assault, though police have yet to say why he was pulled over in the first place. His wife told Jersey Journal on Wednesday that he was in the hospital with broken bones and a bullet wound in his leg, but she was not yet allowed to see him for herself. He is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.
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