TO: ALL NEWS MEDIA
FROM: PROSECUTOR GURBIR S. GREWAL
DATE: JUNE 21, 2017
The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office ("BCPO" or the "Office") has completed its investigation into the fatal police shooting of Ismael Miranda on June 24, 2016 by two Paterson Police Department ("PPD") Officers ("Officer 1" and "Officer 2") and has concluded that the use of deadly force against Mr. Miranda was legally justified. The BCPO has determined that it is not necessary to present this matter to the Grand Jury because there are no material facts in dispute. The entire investigation was conducted in accordance with the July 28, 2015 Attorney General Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive Regarding Uniform Statewide Procedures and Best Practices for Conducting Police Use of Force Investigations ("Attorney General’s Directive" or the "Directive"). In addition, pursuant to the Directive, the Attorney General’s Office independently reviewed and concurred with the BCPO’s determination that there are no material facts in dispute and that the use of deadly force by Officers 1 and 2 in this case was legally justified. As such, the Attorney General’s Office concurred with the BCPO that it is not necessary to present this matter to a Grand Jury.
Overview of BCPO Investigation
Due to a potential conflict of interest presented by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office ("PCPO") investigating the matter, on June 24, 2016, the Attorney General’s Office directed the BCPO to investigate the fatal shooting of Mr. Miranda. Thereafter, the BCPO Major Crimes Unit investigated this matter. That investigation included, among other things: witness interviews; crime scene reports; the collection and review of forensic evidence collected at the scene; review of ballistics reports; review of all pertinent medical records including the autopsy report rendered by the State Medical Examiner’s Office; and review of all PPD reports related to the June 24, 2016 incident. The witness interviews included an interview of Officer 1 and Officer 2, interviews of other officers who responded to the shooting, interviews of civilian witnesses who were in the area at or around the time of the shooting, and an interview of the intended victim.
The BCPO’s investigation revealed the following undisputed facts:
1. On Thursday, June 23, 2016, Ismael Miranda and Cesar Rosario conspired to rob an alleged drug-dealer ("Intended Victim 1"). Using the pretext of engaging in a drug transaction, Mr. Rosario called Intended Victim 1 and discussed meeting in the area of Summer Street in Paterson.
2. Intended Victim 1 drove his minivan to the location accompanied by his friend ("Intended Victim 2"). Mr. Rosario approached the vehicle and suggested that Intended Victim 1 park the vehicle in a specified spot. Intended Victim 1 declined, based upon his fear that his car might then be boxed into the parking spot.
3. While Mr. Rosario distracted Intended Victim 1, Mr. Miranda, with some clothing wrapped around his face, walked up to the vehicle with a loaded handgun. Upon seeing the handgun, Intended Victim 1 immediately drove away from the area. Mr. Miranda then fired one round at the fleeing vehicle.
4. Prior to the shot being fired, two PPD Officers, Officers 1 and 2, were patrolling the area and responded to the commotion on Summer Street. Both officers were in plain clothes and driving an unmarked police vehicle.
5. When Officers 1 and 2 arrived in the area of Summer Street within the City of Paterson, they observed a male, later identified as Mr. Miranda, standing in the middle of Summer Street. Both officers then observed Mr. Miranda fire a handgun in the direction of what appeared to be a maroon SUV driving away from the scene.
6. As Officers 1 and 2 exited their unmarked police vehicle and approached Mr. Miranda, they identified themselves, both verbally and visually through the outward display of their badges, as police officers. Mr. Miranda turned and faced them while still holding the handgun.
7. Mr. Miranda disregarded the commands of the officers, approached them, and took a position between two cars parked on Summer Street. As Mr. Miranda raised his arm with the handgun, Officers 1 and 2 fired rounds from their duty weapons at him.
8. Mr. Miranda sustained multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the head and another to the upper chest region.
9. At approximately 1:56 A.M., Officer 1 called in "Shots Fired" over his police radio. Officer 1 also requested Advanced Life Support, an ambulance, and relayed that a dark colored, possibly maroon SUV, was driving northbound on Summer Street.
10. Responding PPD officers observed Mr. Miranda, slumped up against the rear of a parked car in front of 497 Summer Street. The first responding officer placed Mr. Miranda onto his back to render first aid, but Mr. Miranda remained unresponsive.
11. A short distance from the location where Mr. Miranda’s body was found, officers observed a black, semi-automatic firearm on the ground. The firearm had a live round (bullet) stuck in the ejection port.
12. Paramedics from Saint Joseph’s Hospital arrived to the scene and stated that lifesaving efforts would be futile. Mr. Miranda was pronounced dead at approximately 2:03 a.m.
13. A total of seven rounds were fired by Officers 1 and 2. Five discharged bullets, consistent with being fired from the type of duty weapons used by both Officers 1 and 2, were recovered from the scene. Two discharged bullets, consistent with being fired from the type of duty weapons used by both Officers 1 and 2, were recovered from the body of Mr. Miranda during the autopsy. Due to the damage sustained from impact, the microscopic examinations of these bullets were inconclusive. Specifically, there was no conclusive determination as to which officer’s weapon discharged each bullet.
14. Based on microscopic comparisons of the seven discharged shell casings that were recovered at the scene, it was determined that five of the shell casings were from the duty weapon of Officer 1 and two of the shell casings were from the duty weapon of Officer 2.
15. One live .380 caliber round and one .380 caliber shell casing was recovered at the scene. The .380 caliber handgun recovered a few feet from Mr. Miranda’s body contained four live .380 caliber rounds in the magazine. The lack of a distinguishing stamp on the firing pin of the .380 caliber handgun found near Mr. Miranda prevented a comparison of the pistol to the discharged shell casing.
16. On June 24, 2016, a postmortem examination and autopsy on the body of Mr. Miranda was conducted at the Institute of Forensic Science, Regional Medical Examiner’s Office (Newark) by an Assistant Medical Examiner. Multiple gunshot wounds were noted during the inspection of the body, specifically the following: a gunshot wound to the forehead; a gunshot wound near the trachea; a gunshot wound near the right pectoral muscle; and a gunshot wound near the right collar bone.
17. The Assistant Medical Examiner concluded that the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds to the head and torso and the manner of death was homicide. Due to the damage sustained from impact, the microscopic examinations of the bullets recovered from Mr. Miranda’s body proved to be inconclusive.
18. In connection with the events outlined above that transpired on June 24, 2016, Mr. Rosario was indicted by a Bergen County Grand Jury on the following charges: one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and 15-1; one count of armed robbery, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; and one count of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a.
19. On May 8, 2017, Mr. Rosario plead guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and 15-1. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 30, 2017 and is facing 5 years New Jersey Department of Corrections with the application of the No Early Release Act.
Applying the relevant statutes and the Attorney General’s Directive to the undisputed material facts outlined above, we conclude that the use of deadly force by Officers 1 and 2 was justified pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4a, which states "the use of force upon or towards another person is justifiable when the actor reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion." The law defines a "reasonable belief" as one which would be held by a person of ordinary prudence and intelligence. Officers 1 and 2 indicated that they believed their lives were in danger and an independent analysis of the undisputed facts concludes that this belief was reasonable.
Here, Officers 1 and 2 arrived on Summer Street in Paterson and observed Miranda discharge one round at a fleeing vehicle. The officers exited their unmarked vehicle, announced that they were police officers, and gave Mr. Miranda verbal commands. Instead of complying, Mr. Miranda, while still armed, approached the officers and took a position between two cars parked on Summer Street. As Mr. Miranda raised his arm with the handgun, Officers 1 and 2 fired from their duty weapons. Thus, Officers 1 and 2 were legally justified in using deadly force because such force was immediately necessary to protect themselves from being shot by Mr. Miranda who had, moments earlier, discharged his firearm in full view of Officers 1 and 2 at a fleeing vehicle. In fact, responding officers later recovered a semi-automatic firearm on the ground a short distance from the location of where they found Mr. Miranda’s body. Notably, that firearm had a live round (bullet) stuck in the ejection port.
Finally, the deliberate actions that Mr. Miranda took on June 24, 2016 further evince his intent. Mr. Miranda and Mr. Rosario, his co-conspirator, entered into an agreement to commit an armed robbery against Intended Victim 1. Mr. Miranda wore a face covering and walked up to the vehicle of Intended Victim 1 with a loaded handgun. When Intended Victim 1 drove away, Mr. Miranda fired one round at the fleeing vehicle.
Compliance with the Attorney General’s Directive
Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal has reviewed this matter. In this regard, the BCPO’s investigation was conducted in compliance with all relevant provisions of the Attorney General’s Directive. In addition, a comprehensive conflicts inquiry was conducted to ensure that no actual or potential conflicts of interest existed for Prosecutor Grewal or any of the supervisors or detectives assigned to the investigation.
Subsequent Review by the Attorney General’s Office
Pursuant to the Attorney General’s Directive, the results of this investigation and the legal conclusions reached were reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office. On May 22, 2017, Elie Honig, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, advised Prosecutor Grewal that the Attorney General’s Office agreed with the BCPO’s conclusion that the use of deadly force was legally justified and that there are no material facts in dispute that require presentation of this matter to the Grand Jury.