PATERSON, NJ – A Passaic County grand jury has determined that Paterson police officer Javier Gutierrez was justified in fatally shooting a 38-year-old city man in the back on New Year’s morning, officials said.
Chief Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor Michael DeMarco said Gutierrez spotted the man, Jacobe Hyatt, holding a gun during a street dispute near the BP gas station on Broadway and urged the suspect to show his hands as the officer approached him. Gutierrez said he saw Hyatt reach towards the handgun tucked in his waistband and so the officer fired one shot that hit the suspect three inches from the mid-line of his back, DeMarco said.
When asked why the bullet wound was in Hyatt’s back, the prosecutor said Gutierrez had maneuvered through the group of people at the scene so that he would have a clear shot at the suspect without having anyone else in the line of fire. DeMarco said the officer was setting up a “safe perimeter.’’
The grand jury rendered its decision not to indict Gutierrez in mid-August. PatersonPress.com learned of the decision last week.
Michael Hyatt, the brother of the man who was killed, said the prosecutor’s office contacted him about the grand jury’s findings. He said it was not a long conversation. “I really didn’t want to hear anything else from them,’’ said Hyatt. “I just called my lawyer.’’
Hyatt is a New Jersey corrections officer with training on how law enforcement officers are supposed to use a fireman. He has questioned why his brother was shot from behind. “That’s what I want to know and that’s what I plan to find out,’’ said Hyatt.
Hyatt family members have filed a legal notice alerting the City of Paterson that they may file a lawsuit. The Hyatts’ lawyer could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Authorities have said that Gutierrez and his partner were on routine patrol on Broadway at about 5 am on January 1 when they came upon the disturbance. From the patrol car, Gutierrez spotted a gun in Hyatt’s hand and approached with caution, warning his partner about the weapon, saying, “Gun. Gun. Gun,’’according to DeMarco.
Police at the scene found a handgun beneath Hyatt’s body, DeMarco said. But tests showed there were no fingerprints on the weapon, DeMarco said.
Gutierrez was placed on paid leave after the shooting. City officials have not said whether and when he has returned to duty.
Hyatt was the first of three Patersonians to be killed this year in incidents involving law enforcement officers.
In April, Randolph Waddy died in a motorcycle crash that resulted in official misconduct charges being filed against two city special police officers who apparently were chasing him.
On September 1, a city police officer whose name has not been made public shot and killed Salvatore Del Rosario at Del Rosario’s Redwood Avenue home. Authorities have released few details in the Del Rosario shooting.
His family members say they called for an ambulance to try to get Del Rosario to take medication, but that police officers arrived instead. The officers shot Del Rosario in the head and chest when they broke into the bathroom and the man was standing there holding a hammer, according to family members.
DeMarco said detectives were still interviewing witnesses and details on that case would be released once the basic facts were determined.