NEWARK, NJ - A nonprofit that helps pay legal expenses for police officers who face allegations of excessive force while on duty is supporting the Newark cop who shot at a fleeing vehicle, leaving one man dead and another injured.
The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund announced that it will financially support Newark police officer Jovanny Crespo, who faces charges including aggravated manslaughter and aggravated assault. He pleaded not guilty last month.
Authorities say Crespo, 26, shot at a car on Jan. 28 that fled from a traffic stop made by another officer, who said she saw a gun in the vehicle. Gregory Griffin, 46, died from his injuries, while Andrew Dixon, 35, survived after being shot in the head.
Video released by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office shows Crespo going in and out of his vehicle during the pursuit and firing multiple at the vehicle as it speeds away. The Newark Public Safety Department announced he was suspended in late Februrary.
“We look for cases where the officer’s use of force was consistent with established law governing use of force by police,” said Jason Johnson, the defense fund president. “It’s the role of the LELDF to try to reverse the trend of analyzing police officers’ use of force decisions through a political, rather than legal, lens.”
Dixon, the passenger in the car that fled the scene, was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a prohibited weapon.
Crespo faces life in prison if convicted of all counts, which include two counts of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and two counts of official misconduct.
The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, based in Virginia, said it reviewed police body camera footage from the incident before it decided to support Crespo. The organization was created by former U.S. Department of Justice officials after fundraising for Stacey Koon, an LAPD police sergeant involved in the Rodney King case.