TRENTON – A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Juan Restrepo, 73, of Summit, who died while in the custody of the Newark Police Department on June 15, 2020.
The death in custody was investigated by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office with oversight from the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to New Jersey residents called to serve on the grand jury in accordance with Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive” issued in 2019. In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (“SOPs”) to ensure that these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, and with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the Independent Prosecutor Directive.
The investigation of this death in custody included interviews of witnesses, review of video footage and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury concluded its deliberations September 13 and voted “no bill,” meaning the grand jury concluded that no criminal charges should be filed against the officers involved in this death in custody.
According to the investigation, at approximately 9:30 a.m. on the morning of June 15, 2020, Mr. Restrepo was approached by Officers Lorenzo Orsi and Lucfred Petion of the Newark Police Department (NPD) after a report of an intoxicated man behind the wheel of a car. Mr. Restrepo was taken into custody on suspicion of Driving While Intoxicated. He was then transported to a NJ Transit Station where officials attempted to obtain a breathalyzer reading. A reading was not able to be obtained. Mr. Restrepo was subsequently transferred back to a waiting NPD vehicle. Shortly after the vehicle began to drive away, an officer noticed a change in Mr. Restrepo’s condition. As a result, the vehicle stopped and Mr. Restrepo was taken out of the vehicle. Officers and a woman identifying herself as a nurse rendered medical aid to him before EMTs arrived. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 1:17pm. An autopsy was performed and the Medical Examiner concluded that the manner of death was natural and the cause of death was atherosclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease. No alcohol or illegal drug was present in Mr. Restrepo’s body.
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.
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 Independent Prosecutor Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any principal 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 at this link:
Further information about how fatal police encounters are investigated in New Jersey under the directive is found at this link: