UNION COUNTY, NJ - In accordance with the Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive Amending Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive No. 2006-5, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office is releasing the following public statement regarding a use of non-deadly force by law enforcement in Clark, New Jersey.
At 11:53 a.m. on July 31, 2015, Clark Police Officer 1 observed a 1997 Ford Explorer with an unrestrained young child inside. As Officer 1 began to follow the Ford Explorer, he noticed that the vehicle also had an inoperable rear brake light, so he activated his emergency lights and conducted a motor vehicle stop. Officer 1 approached the driver’s side of the vehicle and observed three adults and the child inside. All three adults were bending over and looking through assorted papers in the vehicle’s center console.
Officer 1 asked the male driver of the vehicle, Fortunato Riga, 32, for his credentials. The rear-seat passenger, Antoinette DiIorio, 61, then began to question Officer 1 about the reason for the stop. Officer 1 indicated that he would explain everything to the driver once the credentials were produced.
Riga produced the vehicle registration only. Officer 1 again asked Riga for his driver’s license and proof of insurance. Riga removed his wallet from his pants pocket and produced his driver’s license.
Riga, DiIorio, and the vehicle’s other adult occupant then became increasingly agitated, at which point DiIorio and the other occupant began to yell at Officer 1.
In an effort to deescalate the situation, Officer 1 asked Riga to step outside of the vehicle so they could speak privately. Riga refused, continuing to search through the interior of the vehicle while using profanity, and he ultimately was unable to produce proof of insurance.
At that time, Riga indicated that he would not exit his vehicle until a Clark Police Department supervisor came to the scene, and in the meantime, DiIorio and Passenger 1 continued to yell at Officer 1. Officer 1 then ordered Riga out of the car and stated that he was under arrest for obstruction. Riga initially attempted to open the driver’s door, but then pulled back on the door. Officer 1 then attempted to pull open the door, with Riga continuing to resist.
Clark Police Officers 2 and 3 then arrived at the scene to assist Officer 1, at which point Riga was successfully removed from the vehicle and escorted to the rear of the vehicle.
At that time, Antoinette DiIorio, after repeatedly being advised to stay in the vehicle, quickly exited the vehicle and lunged at Officer 1, grabbing him around his upper body. The force knocked Officer 1 backward, and Officer 2 prevented him from falling to the ground by holding him upright.
In an attempt to gain control of DiIorio, Officer 1 then engaged in a physical struggle with her in the roadway while Officers 2 and 3 again walked Riga to the rear of the vehicle. DiIorio continued to resist Officer 1 by flailing her arms, jerking her body, and attempting to spin around. After Officer 1 unsuccessfully attempted to gain control of DiIorio, he forced her to the ground in order to place her under arrest.
As a result of the impact, DiIorio sustained non-life-threatening injuries, including a concussion, loss of several teeth, and various fractures. Officers at the scene provided immediate medical assistance until EMS arrived to render additional assistance. DiIorio then was transported to a hospital and was released the following day.
Fortunado Riga was charged with obstruction of justice and multiple motor vehicle offenses. Antoinette DiIorio was charged with resisting arrest and obstruction of justice.
The matter was presented to the Union County Grand Jury to determine if Officer 1’s use of non-deadly force was legally justified. Following a lengthy review of all relevant evidence – including statements from all officers and civilians known to be present at the time of the incident, plus video evidence recorded by a civilian via cell phone – the Union County Grand Jury returned a no-bill of indictment, finding that the credible evidence established that Officer 1’s use of non-deadly force was legally justified to complete the arrest.
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office complied with all portions of the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive regarding the investigation of police use of force resulting in serious bodily injury.