Trenton, NJ – A New Jersey grand jury has determined a Riverdale police officer will not be criminally charged for fatally shooting a suspect who rammed his patrol car during a 2020 pursuit and pinned him inside.
In a decision handed down Monday, the grand jury declined to indict Riverdale Police Officer Andrew Duffy in connection with the Jan. 23, 2020 death of 32-year-old Michael Rivera, the Bergen Record reported.
The incident began outside a Home Depot store on Route 23 in Riverdale after police received a report Rivera had shoplifted items from the business, according to the paper.
Officer Duffy arrived at the scene and caught up to Rivera just as the suspect “jumped into a vehicle and started it,” New Jersey Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck said on Tuesday, according to the South Passaic Daily Voice.
The officer tried to pull the keys out of the ignition of the vehicle, but he was unable to yank them out before the suspect began driving off, Bruck said.
He ultimately fell backwards as Rivera sped away, the South Passaic Daily Voice reported.
“Police were alerted to be on the lookout for the suspect vehicle, which was later spotted and pursued by officers from local police agencies, including Officer Duffy,” the acting attorney general said.
Rivera refused to pull over and led officers from multiple agencies on a chase that ended in a cul-de-sac in the borough of Bloomindale.
As Officer Duffy was stepping out of his patrol vehicle on the dead-end street, Rivera stomped on the accelerator and crashed into his patrol car, pinning the officer’s foot in the door, the Bergen Record reported.
The trapped officer fired multiple rounds at his attacker, hitting him at least once.
Most of the rounds were fired through the driver’s side window of his patrol car, according to NJ.com.
Paramedics rendered CPR and first aid at the scene before transporting Rivera to Chilton Medical Center, where he succumbed to his wounds, the Bergen Record reported.
Officer Duffy was treated for his injuries at the hospital and released to recover at home, according to the South Passaic Daily Voice.
Riverdale Police Chief Kevin Smith said he reviewed dashcam footage of the incident shortly after the officer-involved shooting occurred, NJ.com reported.
“I see a suspect willing to kill my officer,” Chief Smith said at the time. “I know my officer did not want to do this, but he had to, and I stand behind him.”
Bruck’s office presented its investigative findings to the grand jury, which was tasked with determining whether or not there was reason to believe police did anything wrong during the incident.
Bruck said the jurors reviewed forensic evidence, autopsy results, witness interviews, and video footage before they refused to indict Officer Duffy, the South Passaic Daily Voice reported.
New Jersey law enforcement officers are authorized to use deadly force in instances where “the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm,” the acting attorney general noted.