A video showing Jersey City cops kicking a burning innocent bystander who caught fire after a police pursuit ended in a crash has led to calls from the New Jersey city’s mayor for the officers to be fired.
The 50-second video shows a car engulfed in flames after it crashed onto a sidewalk near an utility pole following the chase Sunday night. Sirens can be heard and flashing police lights seen as a burning man emerges from the flames and drops to the ground to extinguish himself.
As he rolls on the ground and takes his jacket off to knock down the flames, officers approach. While the man, who has not been publicly identified, is on his knees, one of the officers runs toward him and kicks him in the chest, knocking him back to the sidewalk. Other officers then swarm the man and begin kicking near and on him. The video ends with the officers dragging the innocent man into the street.
The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office said this week that the man in the video was a bystander, not the man being chased by officers, NJ.com reports.
The office said it “believe(s) with certainty that this man is the bystander from West New York who suffered burns.”
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said on Twitter, “This is unacceptable. We’re IDing officers. We’ll pursue termination (and) criminal charges as appropriate.”
According to NBC New York, the chase began near Ocean and Cator avenues about 11 p.m. Sunday. The driver of the car, 48-year-old Leon Pinkston, had fled from officers during a traffic stop, police say, and was chased down Tonnelle Avenue. He then was involved in a minor crash as he tried to move through two lanes of traffic and Jersey City officers opened fire on the car.
Pinkston continued driving and crashed into the utility pole, causing the car to burst into flames, the news station reports. The bystander was driving down Tonnelle Avenue at the time of the chase and was critically injured when Pinkston’s car caught struck his and caught fire, police said. He was then kicked by officers.
A friend of the unnamed man told NJ.com he is “fighting for his life” with severe burns and facial injuries.
City officials said the entire chase has raised questions, along with the video showing the man being kicked as he was struggling to extinguish himself.
“To be clear, we are working with the HCPO and are in the process of identifying the officers on this video,” city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill said in a statement. “Once we clearly identify all the officers involved we will be seeking termination in addition to any possible criminal penalties in appropriate cases.”
Fulop, the city’s mayor, told NBC New York, “”I don’t think there’s any explanation that would justify their actions. 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.”
The witness who filmed the incident, Roberto, told the news station, “”They didn’t help him, they just started kicking him and grabbing him. I don’t think they treated him the right way, and that’s not how you treat any human in this world.”
But the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association, the department’s union, said in a statement that the officers were providing help and get the man to safety.
“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,” union President Carmine Disbrow said in the statement.
The driver of the car, Pinkston, was also hospitalized after being shot in the leg by the officers and suffering broken bones in the crash He is being charged with aggravated assault and eluding.