Grand jury votes to criminally charge Paterson officer for 2022 shooting that left man paralyzed
A state grand jury has voted to file criminal charges against Paterson Police Officer Jerry Moravek who allegedly shot a man in the back during a foot chase in June 2022, leaving the man paralyzed.
Moravek could be facing five to 10 years behind bars. He was indicted on charges of aggravated assault and official misconduct, both in the second degree. The grand jury determined that the officer’s use of force against a running victim was not justified.
Police body cam footage shows the foot chase between Moravek and Khalif Cooper. The officer could be heard ordering Cooper to “drop the gun.” It’s alleged that the officer never ordered Cooper to stop running or to get on the ground and never warned Cooper that he was going to discharge his service weapon.
Black Lives Matter organizer Zellie Thomas says this is a step forward in getting justice for Cooper.
"If a regular civilian was to shoot someone, they’ll be charged almost immediately and this kind of shows that there’s a different process for police officers,” says Thomas.
Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh controversially sided against the state earlier this year, and said the officer was following guidelines and that he had the right to defend himself. He did not wish to comment Thursday on these latest developments.
"Oftentimes, officers fear for their lives. But, just because you fear for your life, doesn’t give you the right to shoot and injure someone and potentially kill that person,” says Thomas. Cooper was left unable to walk after that shooting. There was a gun found near where Cooper was seen running, but investigators say there was no DNA or fingerprint evidence linking Cooper to the gun.
The use of deadly force by a police officer is meant as a last resort in New Jersey when the officer feels the need to protect themselves or others who might be in danger. In this case, the indictment alleges the victim was running away, and not posing an immediate threat to the officer or bystanders.