Justice For All: Videos raise questions about police shooting in Bloomfield
Footage from police cameras and cellphones raises questions about the Bloomfield Police Department’s version of an incident in which officers shot and injured a motorist during a traffic stop last November.
Bloomfield police said officers shot Jeffrey Sutton in the arm after he struck four officers with his car and injured them. But cellphone video does not appear to show Sutton making contact with any officer. Police footage shows all four officers seemingly unhurt after the incident, and when a dispatcher asks repeatedly if anyone needs medical assistance, no one replies.
Civil rights attorney Michael Poreda tells Kane In Your Corner the police complaint is inaccurate because, “It talks about how police officers were injured and that [Sutton] targeted them with this car and you can see in the video that didn't happen.”
“I see him trying to get out of the way of them shooting,” says Raquella Sutton, Jeffrey Sutton’s mother. “That's what I see, my son trying to save his life.”
On Nov. 9, Bloomfield police got a hit on a license plate on a car that Sutton was driving. Dispatchers instructed officers to treat the car as a “felony vehicle.” Documents confirm Sutton had several open felony warrants, including one for aggravated assault. Bloomfield officers then executed a “felony traffic stop,” approaching the car at gunpoint and ordering Sutton to get out. Sutton refused, putting the car in reverse and slowly backing away.
Sutton claims he failed to comply because “I was in fear for my life.” He says one of the officers involved “kept yelling obscenities at me (and) that he was going to blow my freaking head off.”
After several minutes, a police officer tried to break Sutton’s window with a baton. Seconds later, two officers fired, striking Sutton in the arm.
Brian Higgins, a former Bergen County police chief and now a law enforcement analyst, says after reviewing the video and documents, he’s “not ready to make a call” on whether the shooting was justified or unjustified, adding that it “deserves a very in-depth investigation.”
Higgins says Sutton should have complied with officers’ commands and says, “I really do believe that had this individual stopped, it would not have gotten to this point.”
But Higgins agrees the police version of events does not match the video. “I didn't see any officers being struck,” he says.
Bloomfield Director of Public Safety Samuel DiMaio told Kane In Your Corner, “The investigation is still with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and active at this time. Unfortunately, we at the BPD cannot answer any questions regarding the case.”
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed it is conducting a use-of-force investigation but offered no further comment.
Sutton is being held in the Essex County Jail on multiple charges, including four counts of aggravated assault on law enforcement officers with a deadly weapon. That weapon: the car he allegedly used to run officers down. It’s a charge he contends is unfair.
“I know for a fact I didn’t try to run them cops over,” Sutton says.