PARAMUS, N.J. – A Paramus police officer who landed on the hood of a fleeing vehicle in an aborted burglary of a Route 4 cellphone store was justified in shooting the driver, who later died of his injuries, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office announced Tuesday night.
“It was not necessary to present this matter to the Grand Jury because there were no material facts in dispute regarding the fatal shooting of [Miguel Reyes], on Oct. 8, 2014,” Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal said.
There is "ample evidence to justify the use of force" because it was "immediately necessary" for the officer to protect himself from the car headed toward him, the prosecutor concluded.
“The [state] Attorney General’s Office independently reviewed and concurred with the BCPO’s investigative findings, the BCPO’s determination not to present this matter to the Grand Jury as there were no material facts in dispute, and the BCPO’s conclusion that the use of deadly force by [the officer] was legally justified,” Grewal added.
Reyes, 20, from Harlem River Drive in Manhattan, hit the gas of a 2015 Kia, striking the officer, who responded to the 4:36 a.m. burglary alarm at the T-Mobile store on westbound Route 4.
In the car were three accomplices.
"Every nameplate or manufacturer insignia on the Kia was neatly covered with black tape to prevent identification of the car," Grewal said an investigation found. "All four men wore dark clothing and were equipped with gloves, burglary tools, and a sledgehammer to facilitate the commission of the burglary.
"The four men were able to create a hole in the wall between the Jennifer Convertibles and the vacant store [between it and the T-Mobile location]," Grewal said. "In the process, however, they activated the alarm at the Jennifer Convertibles store. After the audible alarm sounded, the four men retreated to the parked Kia. "
His partners had noticed the rear door of Jennifer Convertibles pried open and were investigating when the first officer parked his cruiser “in close proximity to the front bumper of the Kia in an attempt to prevent its departure from the scene,” the prosecutor said.
He then got out, drew his gun and ordered the bandits to stop, he said.
“Reyes backed up the Kia and then deliberately accelerated forward toward [the officer], who was standing next to the driver’s side of the police car,” Grewal said.
The officer fired, then was knocked onto the hood of the car, the prosecutor said.
“While on the hood of the Kia, [the officer] fired [his] weapon several more times in the direction of the driver of the Kia,” he added. “At that point, Reyes abruptly stopped the vehicle and [the officer] was thrown to the ground in front of the Kia.
“Reyes then accelerated and drove over [him].”
Reyes lost control of the car and it struck the side of a Sleepy’s store at nearly 20 miles an hour, “causing structural damage and breaking a window,” Grewal said. “[He then backed up the Kia.
“By that time, [the officer] had extricated [himself] from the undercarriage of the car and got back to his/her feet.”
The officer fired a single round into the driver’s side window as it headed onto westbound Route 4, striking the divider.
Reyes got out and ran across Route 4 and was quickly grabbed by responding River Edge police officers.
He was pronounced dead at Hackensack University Medical Center at 5:45 a.m. A postmortem later showed three gunshot wounds – one in the right abdomen, one in the right upper extremity above the elbow and the other in the right shoulder, the prosecutor said.
Paramus and River Edge police took the other three into custody with help from an off-duty NYPD detective who happened by.
Detectives armed with a search warrant recovered “a flashlight, a knit cap, a black head cover, red and white gloves, a black hat, a sledge hammer, a pry bar, and a grinder tool with blades used to cut metal,” among other items, from the Kia, Grewal said.
The officer survived a head injury, as well as injuries to his lower extremities, along with contusions and bruises.
The trio of passengers -- Josue Felix, Hector Felix, and Nico Vega – pleaded guilty to burglary last April 18, 2016.
Hector Felix and Nico Vega were later sentenced to three years in prison each and Josue Felix to five years.
NOTE: The BCPO Major Crimes Unit investigated the shooting.
The detectives’ work included, among other factors, “witness interviews; review of crime scene reports; the collection and review of forensic evidence collected at the scene; review of ballistics reports; review of all pertinent medical records, including the autopsy report rendered by the Bergen County Medical Examiner’s Office; and review of all PPD and law enforcement reports related to the October 8, 2014 incident,” Grewal said.
“The witness interviews included, among others, an interview of [the officer involved] and other officers who responded to the shooting,” the prosecutor said.