Paterson, N.J. police officer accused of violating state's use-of-force policy
PATERSON, N.J. -- A Paterson police officer is now facing criminal charges after shooting a man in the back.
The New Jersey attorney general said the shooting violated the state's use-of-force policy.
Video from the early morning hours of June 11 shows officers responding to calls of a large crowd causing a disturbance. During that call, they found a gun.
"Everything's good?" one officer says on the footage.
"Yeah, I got the weapon right here," another officer responds.
But seconds later, shots can be heard in the distance. Officer Jerry Moravek is seen running toward that sound. Not long after, a man in a white hoodie is seen running.
"Drop the gun," Moravek says repeatedly on video.
Less than 15 seconds later, the officer shoots 28-year-old Khalif Cooper in the back.
"Why did you run from me?" Moravek says.
"I was scared," Cooper says.
As he lay there handcuffed waiting for an ambulance, Cooper can be heard saying repeatedly he wasn't armed.
According to the body cam footage, the officer in those brief moments saw things differently.
"I saw him with a handgun. You didn't see him with a gun here?" Moravek says.
After months of investigating, Attorney General Matt Platkin this week charged Officer Moravek with second-degree aggravated assault, and second-degree official misconduct.
Platkin says the shot left Cooper unable to walk.
That night, there was a gun found near where Cooper was seen running, but Platkin says it wasn't in his possession, or within his reach.
Investigators also say there was no DNA or fingerprint evidence linking that gun to Cooper.
In a short statement, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said the city's preliminary review found the officer was following guidelines -- as he chased a man he thought was armed.
Moravek's attorney says the officer believed his life was at risk and made a split-second decision.
If convicted, Moravek could face up to 10 years in prison on each count.
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