Jersey City, NJ - After Jersey City police officers were recorded on video at the end of a fiery pursuit on June 4, the media spin got so out of control that the Jersey City mayor promised the termination of, and criminal charges against, the officers before any investigation was done, or the officers had even been identified (video of incident below.)
Now four of those officers have been indicted on charges, including attempted murder.
On Sunday night at around 11:15 p.m., officers responded to a call of shots fired, according to CBS New York.
The responding officers located the suspect vehicle in the shooting, which took off, starting a pursuit in which the suspect endangered the lives of everybody on the road.
During the pursuit, two officers shot at the suspect vehicle.
The pursuit ended when the vehicle crashed into another car. Both cars then crashed into a utility pole, and burst into flames.
The officers approached the scene to find a man on fire, running out of the flames.
Believing they were potentially dealing with a suspect who was armed, officers approached him and gave him orders at gunpoint.
If the officers had had more time, they could have continued to try to give the man verbal commands, until it appeared safe for them to approach. However, if the officers stood back while the man was on fire, then he would have just burned to death.
With no time to spare, and faced with a person on fire who was believed to be an armed suspect, the first officer kicked the man to the ground, and other officers began stomping and dragging their feet to put out the burning clothing.
Then, instead of handcuffing and walking the man back to their patrol car like they would in a safer scene, officers dragged the man to safety first.
Afterwards, police determined that the man on fire was an occupant of another vehicle that the suspect had crashed into. The officers had reasonably, but mistakenly, grabbed the wrong person.
The suspect fled the scene on foot, and was later taken into custody.
But that's not how local news station ABC7 reported it.
The news station sold the story as police officers kicking an innocent bystander in the head, and brutally stomping on him for having the nerve to be on fire.
CeFaan Kim reported, "You see at least one cop in the video kicking him in the head as he lay there injured. Other officers are seen stomping on other parts of his body..."
The video actually appears to show that the officer did kick the man down, and then officers tried to stomp out parts of the man's clothing which were on fire.
The heroic actions taken by theses officers to save the man's life, even when they reasonably believed he was an armed suspect, were transformed to into outrageous and unjustified police brutality. The news station even tagged it as police brutality.
The narrative being promoted by the media continued to be that officers saw an innocent man on fire and said, "There's a random guy who is on fire! Let's kick him to death!"
ABC7 wasn't alone, with WQAD throwing in quips to their reporting like, "It's unclear why the officers decided to kick the man instead of helping him."
With the media's unsubstantiated claims about what happened, the city responded that they would be seeking the termination of all officers involved, and seeking criminal charges, as soon as they found out who the officers were.
"We are working with the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office and are in the process of identifying the officers on this video. Once we clearly identify all the officers involved, we will be seeking termination in addition to any possible criminal penalties in appropriate cases," Jersey City Spokesperson Jennifer Morrill said in a statement.
“Look, we have a high standard for the police department," said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. "They do a tremendous job. We’re not going to let just a few bad apples be a reflection on the entire police department or the entire city. We’re going to be aggressive with them."
Once the officers were identified, they were initially suspended. They were then moved to modified duty as the details of the incident were uncovered.
"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," Carmine Disbrow, president of the Jersey City Police Officer Union, told PIX11 at the time.
The man on fire, Miguel Feliz, was in critical condition when he was initially hospitalized. He now says that he suffered a broken rib because of the officers kicking him.
On Thursday, it was announced that the four involved officers have been indicted, according to ABC7.
The charges are as follows:
Lieutenant Keith Ludwig is charged with 2nd and 3rd degree aggravated assault and official misconduct.
MD Khan is charged with possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, 2nd and 3rd and 4th degree aggravated assault, attempted murder, and official misconduct.
Officer Eric Kosinski is charged with possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, 2nd and 3rd degree aggravated assault, attempted murder, and official misconduct.
Officer Francisco Rodriguez is charged with possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, 2nd and 3rd degree aggravated assault, and official misconduct.
"His actions that night were appropriate and in accord with his training and experience of over 24 years as a Jersey City police officer. Lt. Ludwig and his family, friends and supporters stand beside him as the process now begins," Iacullo's statement said.
You can see the video of the incident below: