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 use of deadly force by an off-duty Elizabeth Police Department Detective.
At approximately 7:45 PM, on March 5, 2016, an off-duty Detective, wearing plain clothes, arrived at a restaurant on the 100 block of 5th Street in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Upon his arrival, he placed an order, ate some of his meal, and had the remaining portion packaged for takeout, as the restaurant was scheduled to close at 8 p.m.
Around that time, the restaurant’s owner called out to the Detective to inform him that someone was urinating on the side of the building. Approaching the scene, the Detective observed four to five males standing outside, with one, later identified as Luis Orlando Ruiz-Chicaz, in the process of urinating.
The Detective brandished his badge and announced his presence, at which time Ruiz-Chicaz turned around, revealing a pistol in his hand. The Detective then immediately identified himself as a member of the Elizabeth Police Department and drew his service weapon.
Ruiz-Chicaz ignored an order by the Detective to drop his pistol and instead started walking toward the group of other males, several of whom also were observed to be in possession of handguns. The Detective then yelled “I’m the police,” prompting all but Ruiz-Chicaz to flee the scene.
At this time the Detective placed both arms around Ruiz-Chicaz in an attempt to disarm him, holding his badge in his left hand and his service weapon in his right hand. During the ensuing struggle, a single round was discharged from the Detective’s weapon.
The struggle resulted in Ruiz-Chicaz being knocked to the ground, at which point he dropped his pistol. At that point Ruiz-Chicaz exchanged words with an unknown male standing nearby who quickly attempted to grab the pistol as it sat on the ground.
The Detective at this point fired a second round from his service weapon at the unknown male, causing him to immediately flee the scene. No one was injured as a result of the first or second shot fired by the Detective.
Ruiz-Chicaz was subsequently subdued by the Detective, who kept him restrained until additional Elizabeth Police Department patrol units arrived and placed him under arrest.
The Detective’s service weapon was taken into evidence, and a loaded revolver was recovered from Ruiz-Chicaz’s person. Ruiz-Chicaz was later charged with second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, and third-degree aggravated assault; a Union County Grand Jury returned an indictment on those charges on July 1, 2016. On December 14, 2016, Ruiz-Chicaz pled guilty to second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, second- degree possession of a weapon without a permit, and third-degree pointing a firearm at a law enforcement officer. On February 24, 2017 Ruiz-Chicaz was sentenced to five years state prison with a 40-month parole disqualifier by Judge Frederic McDaniel.
The investigation into this incident was conducted by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office’s Shooting Response Team, which canvassed the area and obtained numerous sworn statements, all of which corroborated the Detective’s account of what had occurred. It was determined that due to Ruiz-Chicaz’s failure to obey the Detective’s order to drop his weapon, he placed the Detective and two nearby civilians in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.
Following a lengthy review of all relevant evidence, it was the determination of the Prosecutor’s Office that the Detective’s use of force was justified by the legal principles of self-defense and defense of others. With no substantive facts of the case being in dispute, it was determined that the matter did not merit presentation to a Grand Jury; the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General also performed an independent review of this case and reached the same conclusion.
The Prosecutor’s Office complied with all portions of Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive 2006-5 regarding the investigation and prosecution of police use of deadly force.