For Immediate Release: December 5, 2022
Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
Office of Public Integrity and Accountability
– Thomas J. Eicher, Executive Director
TRENTON – A state grand jury has voted not to file criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Jose Gonzalez, 41, of Paterson, who died after an encounter with Paterson police officers on October 2, 2021.
The fatal police encounter was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to New Jersey residents serving 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 fatal police encounter included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, 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 on November 14, 2022 and voted “no bill,” meaning the grand jury concluded no charges should be filed against any officer.
According to the investigation, at approximately 5:26 p.m., the Paterson Police received two 911 calls regarding a male dressed in pajamas on Madison Avenue in Paterson who was jumping between the roofs of residences and broke a window to enter a home. Paterson police officers responded to 620 Madison Ave. and encountered Jose Gonzalez lying on the ground, with visible cuts and blood on his hands and arms, at the exterior rear of the residence. The officers called for medical assistance. Shortly thereafter, Gonzalez began flailing his arms and speaking incoherently. Over the next 12 minutes, Gonzalez repeatedly flailed his arms, hit himself in the chest and face, and punched the exterior of the residence. He then kicked backwards and opened the resident’s rear basement door and stumbled into the residence. The officers immediately removed him from the residence and handcuffed him to allow EMTs to safely render medical aid. Gonzalez was transported to St. Joseph’s University Medical Center and was pronounced deceased shortly after his arrival.
An autopsy was conducted and the Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death was acute drug toxicity and the manner of death was an accident.
Paterson Police Sgt. Angelo Gencarelli and Officer Rocco Galiano were the Paterson police officers involved in the incident.
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.
After considering evidence, testimony from the OPIA investigation, and instructions on the legal standards, including whether the officers’ actions caused Mr. Gonzalez’s death, the state grand jury determined that no criminal charges should be brought against the officers.
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 and further information about how fatal police encounters are investigated in New Jersey under that directive can be found on the Attorney General’s website at this link: www.nj.gov/oag/independent-prosecutor.