TRENTON — A state grand jury has voted not to file criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the deaths of Gregory Dukes, 42, and Cecil Richardson, 47, both of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who were fatally injured when the vehicle they were in crashed, after leaving the scene of an attempted motor vehicle stop and being pursued by the Montclair Police on May 10, 2022.
The deaths of Mr. Dukes and Mr. Richardson were investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to New Jersey residents serving on the grand jury in accordance with the Independent Prosecutor Directive of 2019 (the “Directive”). In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the directive.
The investigation included witness interviews, photographs, review of body-worn and dashboard camera footage, as well as autopsy results from the medical examiner. This evidence, including video of the incident, was presented to a state grand jury. After hearing the testimony and evidence, the grand jury concluded its deliberations Monday, September 18, 2023, and voted “no bill,” meaning no criminal charges should be filed against Officer Michael Kupchak of the Montclair Police Department, who had attempted to pull over the vehicle.
According to the investigation, the collision occurred shortly after 4:30 a.m., on Bloomfield Avenue in the area of Ridgewood Avenue in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. Officer Kupchak activated the overhead emergency lights on his marked patrol vehicle in an attempt to stop a vehicle driven by Mr. Dukes, in connection with a robbery investigation. Officer Brandon Taylor was also involved in the attempt to stop the vehicle, and followed behind Officer Kupchak during the pursuit. Mr. Dukes’ vehicle proceeded eastbound on Bloomfield Avenue and entered Glen Ridge, traveling in excess of 65 mph. Approximately 20 seconds later, as Mr. Dukes’ vehicle continued to rapidly accelerate away, Officer Kupchak began to slow down to terminate the pursuit. At that point, the officer was approximately .1 mile away from the suspect vehicle. Approximately 40 seconds after Officer Kupchak first attempted to stop the vehicle, and without coming into contact with another car, Mr. Dukes lost control of the vehicle, left the roadway, and struck a tree. The total distance of the pursuit was approximately .2 miles.
Mr. Dukes and Mr. Richardson were pronounced deceased on scene.
Officers Kupchak and Taylor exited their police vehicles and located Todd Hill, a third occupant, near the crashed vehicle. Other officers arrived and rendered aid. Once an ambulance arrived, Mr. Hill was transported to University Hospital in Newark and admitted for treatment.
Mr. Hill was arrested and later indicted by an Essex County grand jury on several robbery and weapon charges in connection with this incident. He is pending trial on those charges, which are being prosecuted by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
Video footage, audio of a 911 call, and radio communications capturing the events surrounding the deadly crash were previously released. Those recordings are available here: https://njoag.app.box.com/s/kvn66palahkcnysa3wi1qyd42ssv2ffs.
A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody. It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved. The grand jury is instructed on the elements of the potential criminal offenses, including criminal homicide offenses, that could be brought and the grand jury is instructed on self-defense and other forms of legal justification.
A conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation. Prior to presentation to the grand jury, the investigation was reviewed by OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations in the SOPs.
At the conclusion of these investigations, pursuant to the Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any officer should be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for administrative review in accordance with the AG’s Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures. OPIA monitors any resulting review and takes such actions as are necessary to ensure that the review is completed in a timely fashion, and that appropriate actions are taken based on the results of the review.
The Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website and is available here:
Independent Prosecutor Directive
OPIA’s standard operating procedures for grand jury presentations of investigations involving fatal police encounters are also posted on the Attorney General’s website, and are available here:
OPIA Grand Jury SOPs