Jersey City police face tough questions

Eyewitness News Exclusive
August 5, 2009 10:01:42 PM PDT
Police officers dread internal reviews and this one is especially difficult for the Jersey City Police department. They are still mourning a fallen officer, but they are also now facing tough questions whether commanders made tactical errors as they carried out the operation.

"It was a bloodbath." That is how some witnesses described the shootout between two violent suspects and the Jersey City police officers who responded to the scene.

On July 16, there was a barrage of gunfire at Reed and Bergen Avenue. When the smoke cleared the two suspects were dead, and five officers were shot, one of them fatally.

Officer Marc DiNardo was a husband and father of three young children.

Jersey City's police chief tells me his department is close to releasing the results of an internal review.

The review comes amid a growing chorus of criticism that tactical errors may have been made.

"Tactically no. I do not believe there was any error," Chief Thomas Comey said. In this interview, initially the chief denied that mistakes had been made. He said that it's easy to second guess his commander's decisions.

But multiple independent law enforcement experts have told Eyewitness News the situation is typically handled differently.

On July 16th, the suspects were armed and obviously a threat, but they didn't have hostages. That raises a critical question. Did Jersey City Police rush into the building, putting too many lives at risk?

Experts we consulted say police had two things working for them -- a safe distance from the suspects and, second and perhaps most importantly, time.

"Because time gives you everything. Time to clear your head, create a plan to secure the area, shut down basic needs, establish communications. Time and distance are the two things that are most important," said John Shane, who teaches at John Jay College of criminal justice.

Sources say The Jersey City Police internal review will focus on the actions of the officers and commanders from the beginning to the end of the shootout.

Although at first he told me tactical errors weren't made, in the same interview the chief backtracked.

"I would have to say, until I have all the information in hand, I'd be remiss if I said yes or no," Comey said.

Sources say the results of the review will soon be made public, perhaps answering critical questions about what happened on that tragic day.

Eyewitness News has learned that police have videotape of the early stages of the shootout.

They plan on releasing it. Sources say the video shows a gun battle between one of the officers and one of the suspects.

It is, they say, further evidence that they handled the situation the right way. One source said, "This wasn't a hostage situation. It was combat."



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