PATERSON, NJ – The president of the city’s law enforcement union has criticized Councilman Rigo Rodriguez, saying he rushed to judgment regarding Saturday’s fatal shooting of Redwood Avenue man by a Paterson police officer.
“It is easy and irresponsible for Councilman Rigo Rodriguez to play Monday morning politician to criticize this officer for political gain,’’ said Alex Cruz, president of Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local #1. “Any intelligent person would obtain the facts before speaking on this issue.’’
Cruz said he could not comment on the details of the case. But the union president said, “I know the officers involved have received the best training available to take the appropriate legal action to protect themselves and the public.’’
Rodriguez, who could not be reached for a response to Cruz’ criticism, has said he wants to see charges brought against the officers involved in the killing. The councilman accused the officers of being paranoid when they handled the volatile situation. Rodriguez said he has met with several family members of the man who was killed, 39-year-old Salvatore Del Rosario.
The case remains under investigation by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, which has released few details on the incident. Del Rosario’s family members say he was shot when two police officers knocked down the door of his bathroom and found him facing them with a hammer in his hand.
Del Rosario’s three teenage children – his 19-year-old daughter Leidy, and two sons, Honey, 17, and Steven, 15 – were at City Hall Tuesday night as part of group of more than 80 people protesting the killing.
Speaking through interpreters, the three children said they often called for an ambulance to help them get their father to the hospital for his monthly medication. The deceased’s brother, Junior Reyes, said he suffered from epilepsy.
In the past, the Del Rosario children said an ambulance always responded to their call. But on Saturday, a police car showed up instead, they said. Soon, other officers arrived and there a total of seven of them in the apartment at the time of the killing, the deceased’s children said.
Family members say they asked the police officers to go away, but they said two of the officers proceeded to break down the bathroom door. Two shots were fired, the children said. One hit Del Rosario in the head, the other in the chest, the family members said.
At least two of the officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting, city officials said.
Mayor Jeffrey Jones said he did not want the public to think Paterson police were “careless” in their regard for human life. That’s not the case, he said. Standing in City Hall near the protesters, the mayor said, “I understand the emotions associated with a loss. A loss is a loss. But it’s still an investigation. I don’t have any facts to speak to.’’