PATERSON, NJ – Members of the Paterson Police Department issued 40 summonses Monday for violations of emergency orders enacted to slow the spread of COVID-19, Governor Phil Murphy and Colonel Patrick Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, announced Wednesday.
Included in these was Christopher Williams, 26, who was arrested when police were called to his residence on a report of a domestic dispute. When police sought to arrest Williams for violation of a restraining order, he allegedly did not comply and resisted arrest. While being arrested and processed, Williams is reported to have told the officers that he was infected with COVID-19 in an attempt to avoid arrest.
Also facing charges is Juan Ortiz, 36, whose father owns and operates Deluxe Bubbles Car Wash on River Street which was open and conducting business in violation of the emergency orders. The report states that while officers were speaking to the owner the suspect allegedly approached and became aggressive with the officers refusing to cooperate with officers when asked for his personal identifiers.
Offering a reminder that staying home and maintaining social distance isn’t just advice to stay healthy, but also the law, New Jersey State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said that police “are being called upon far too often to deal with people violating the emergency orders— or what is more egregious, people using the virus to spread fear or impede officers in their vital work.”
Callahan further warned that “because lives are at stake, enforcement action will be taken without hesitation against those who are blatantly placing the lives of others at risk.”
While violations of the emergency orders constitute a disorderly persons offense carrying a potential sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, violators can face more serious charges including second-degree terroristic threats during an emergency for claiming to have COVID-19 and threatening to infect law enforcement officers or others by coughing, spitting, or otherwise exposing them. That charge carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
“Our police officers perform heroic work every day,” Mayor Andre Sayegh, who announced a Paterson Police COVID Compliance Unit on April 2, stated, “Now, more than ever, they deserve our support as they work to keep our city safe in the midst of an unknown enemy. Any actions that put them, or anyone else in our community at risk of COVID-19 will not be tolerated and will be dealt with swiftly.