Newark Police Officer Jovanny Crespo (280251)
Credit: Essex County Prosecutor

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office handed down several charges to a Newark police officer including manslaughter after the officer fatally shot a man in January.

Reports indicate that the officer, Jovanny Crespo, tried to conduct a traffic stop at Irvine Turner Boulevard, near Kinney Street; however, the driver did not stop. Crespo fired several shots at the vehicle as it drove off, which is not aligned with police training.

Two men were reportedly in the car, 35-year-old Andrew Dixon and 46-year-old Gregory Griffin. Both men were shot and Griffin died. Police body and dash cam videos show Crespo shooting at the fleeing car and yelling “Shots fired.” He was suspended without pay during the investigation.

Crespo is being charged with aggravated manslaughter, aggravated assault and two counts of second degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and official misconduct by a grand jury. He faces life in prison if convicted.

“He showed a reckless disregard for human life by shooting into a moving vehicle—a vehicle which had heavily tinted windows,” Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens said.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement that Crespos’ indictment was a “sad day” for the police department and the families of the two victims. The Newark Police Department is undergoing reforms in accord with a federal consent decree into law by a unanimous vote of the City Council in 2016.

“We are under a consent decree and this shows that when police officers break the law, they will be held to the same standards as all others, particularly at a time when justice in incidents involving the police is not happening around the country,” Baraka said.

Crespos’ attorney, Patrick Toscano, said in a televised report that the officer was merely doing his job. Several reports allege that there was a gun in the vehicle that Crespos shot at and his attorney says he did the right thing by opening fire.

“Jovanny Crespo was the only one with the courage and the guts to run up to a vehicle…where there was a weapon,” he said. “You don’t treat a hero like this. You don’t put him in handcuffs. Are you kidding me? And then play this , what I term as beautiful police work, to hold him in jail for the next 10 months.”