PATERSON, NJ – Two city auxiliary police officers were arrested on Thursday in connection with the April 17 death of Randolph Waddy in a motorcycle crash on N. 1st Street, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes announced.
The officers – 30-year-old Juan Martinez and 29-year-old Jonathan Lopez – were charged with official misconduct for violating Paterson Office of Emergency Management (OEM) regulations before and after the fatal crash.
Valdes’ press release said the volunteer officers witnessed the fatal crash, but did not stop and help the victim. It also said the officers had activated their siren in a manner as if they were conducting a motor vehicle stop, a violation of OEM procedures. Finally, the press release said they did not alert their supervisors or Paterson police about the crash.
The press release did not exactly what role the OEM vehicle played in the crash, but authorities indicated the investigation will continue. Some witnesses have said the auxiliary police officers caused the crash by speeding erratically down N. 1st Streets. Others have said they saw the city vehicle hit Waddy.
Authorities say the auxiliary police were following Waddy to try to get him to slow down and he crashed into a parked vehicle, according to a story on northjersey.com.
City officials, Waddy’s family members and community leaders have said they feared the slow pace of the investigation meant authorities may try to cover-up the circumstances of the crash. Waddy was 31 when he was killed. The case had prompted several community protests and the City Council had considered asking state and federal authorities to intervene.
The prosecutor said the officers had been following Waddy’s motorcycle from a distance of less than 100 feet when the crash happened. Officials previously have said that the auxiliary police officers drove directly to city police headquarters after the crash.
On April 18, the day after the crash, Paterson suspended the operations of its auxiliary police, an unpaid force used mainly to handle things like crowd control at public events, according to Police and Emergency Management Director Glenn Brown. The officers were on duty at the time of the crash, Brown has said.
Martinez, a Paterson resident, was driving the vehicle, according to the press release. The prosecutor said he is a sergeant and 12-year veteran of the unpaid volunteer OEM auxiliary police. He was arrested at the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office in Totowa and charged with one count of official misconduct, a second degree crime. Martinez was also charged with one count of hindering prosecution, a third degree offense.
Lopez, of Hackensack, has been an auxiliary officer for six years and was acting as Sgt. Martinez’ partner on the evening the crash occurred. Lopez has also been charged with one count of official misconduct in the second degree.
The prosecutor is recommending that Martinez’ bail be $100,000 and Lopez’ bail be $50,000.
The prosecutor’s Public Integrity Unit, working in conjunction with the Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit and the Paterson Police Department’s Accident Reconstruction Unit, are working on the investigation, according to the press release.