New Jersey officer indicted in fatal shooting says actions saved his life

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- A Newark police officer charged with manslaughter in connection with a police-involved shooting is speaking out, saying his actions may have spared his own life.

Officer Jovanny Crespo was caught on video in January shooting into a moving car with darkened windows, killing 46-year-old Gregory Griffin and injuring his passenger.

The car had been stopped by police, and authorities say the men inside fled the traffic stop.

Crespo, who was released while he awaits trial, said that at the moment he fired his gun, he was worried about his life.

"I'd do it again," he said. "My actions that day is the reason why I'm talking right now. If not, we'd be at my funeral or some sort. I know I wouldn't be here. To see a gun pointed directly at your face, it changes the way anybody's going to act."

Video footage shows the 26-year-old Crespo jumping out of a moving police cruiser on three separate occasions to fire on the fleeing car.

Both men in the car were shot in the head, and Griffin died the next day. The passenger, 35-year-old Andrew Dixon, was seriously hurt but survived.

"I'm going through all of this knowing that I could have died that day," Crespo said.

Crespo, a father of four, is charged with aggravated manslaughter, aggravated assault and official misconduct in a six-count indictment.

If convicted on all counts, he faces life in prison.

The state wanted him to remain behind bars pending trial, but Crespo's attorney, Patrick Toscano, praised him as a hero.

"Unless you walk in those shoes, of a law enforcement officer, you have no comprehension, none, zero," he said. "We're not talking about Brentwood here. We're talking about north New Jersey."

The judge subjected him to Level 3 monitoring, which requires weekly checks, and he is not allowed to possess a gun or get a passport. He is also barred from having contact with Dixon, but he will be allowed to look for a job.

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