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Crime & Safety Local News

Authorities: Fleeing Paterson Pair Crash After Stabbing One Man, Hitting Another With Tire Iron

Two Paterson residents who stabbed one young man in the neck and hit another in the head with a tire iron were caught after they crashed their car into a house while fleeing, authorities said Tuesday.

Officers seized Maisara Mousa, 22, at the scene of the crash near the corner of Paxton Street and 6th Avenue shortly before midnight Monday.

Amer Mousa, 20, fled the scene and was at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, where he’d gone for treatment, arrested shortly before 7:30 a.m. Monday authorities said.

The pair crashed a Ford Mustang after assaulting two 20-year-old city men, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes and Paterson Police Chief Ibrahim Baycora said in a joint release without disclosing a possible motive.

Those victims were hospitalized with injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening, they said.

Maisara Mousa is charged with first-degree attempted murder and weapons offenses. He remained held Tuesday in the Passaic County Jail pending a first appearance in Central Judicial Processing Court in Paterson.

Amer Mousa is charged with aggravated assault and weapons offenses. He was being released Tuesday afternoon, with conditions, under New Jersey’s 2017 bail reform law, Valdes and Baycora said.

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Crime & Safety Local News

Paterson Dad Charged With Beating 3-Month-Old Infant Unconscious At Route 46 Mall

A Paterson man was charged with beating his 3-month-old infant unconscious at a Route 46 shopping center.

Woodland Park police were called to The Plaza 46 shopping center on a report of an unresponsive infant in early January, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes and Acting Woodland Park Police Chief John Uzzalino said Tuesday.

The girl was rushed to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, where doctors “discovered various internal injuries,” they said in a statement.

Detectives from Valdes’s office interviewed several witnesses over three months before arresting Elie Kiame, 34, on Monday, the statement said.

They charged him with aggravated assault, child endangerment and child abuse/neglect and sent him to the Passaic County Jail.

A Central Judicial Processing in Paterson released Kiame, with conditions, on Tuesday pending the outcome of the case.

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Crime & Safety Local News

Paterson Squatter Admits Torching Multi-Family Home In Purported Suicide Try

Ertugrul Abaci, 58, bled heavily as he staggered across Sussex Street on June 9, 2019, authorities said at the time.

He’d just ignited a fire in and outside the attic apartment where he’d lived nearly 23 years – and hadn’t paid rent on for the past five, they said.

The German-born Abaci, who became a U.S. citizen after emigrating in the early 1990s, used a bottle of vodka as an accelerant after taking a few swigs from it, investigators said.

He told them he’d set fire to his belongings so that his landlords wouldn’t get them after he killed himself that night, according to documents on file in Superior Court in Paterson.

The landlords, however, told detectives that Abaci had threatened to burn down the building whenever they tried to collect the rent.

Five residents who’d been living there were displaced, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said.

Abaci, meanwhile, was treated at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center.

He was then ordered held at Meadowview Psychiatric Hospital in Secaucus for more than two months for psychiatric reasons before a Superior Court judge in Paterson ordered that Abaci remain jailed until the charges were resolved.

Authorities originally charged Abaci with two counts of aggravated arson and one of creating a risk of widespread injury.

Rather than face trial, he accepted a deal from Senior Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor Julie Serfess, pleading guilty Friday to a single aggravated arson count in exchange for leniency.

Superior Court Judge Joseph Portelli set sentencing for May 7.

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Crime & Safety U. S. News

Chicago 13-year-old boy wasn’t holding gun when shot by cop

CHICAGO  — Disturbing bodycam video released Thursday after public outcry over the police shooting of a 13-year-old boy shows the youth appearing to drop a handgun and begin raising his hands less than a second before an officer fires his gun and kills him.

A still frame taken from Officer Eric Stillman’s jumpy nighttime body camera footage shows that Adam Toledo wasn’t holding anything and had his hands up when Stillman shot him once in the chest about 3 a.m. on March 29. Police, who were responding to reports of shots fired in the area, say the teen had a handgun on him before the shooting. And Stillman’s footage shows him shining a light on a handgun on the ground near Toledo after he shot him.

The release of the footage and other investigation materials comes at a sensitive time, with the ongoing trial in Minneapolis of former Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd and the recent police killing of another Black man, Daunte Wright, in one of that city’s suburbs. Before the Civilian Office of Police Accountability posted the material on its website, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called on the public to keep the peace and some downtown businesses boarded up their windows in the expectation that there could be unrest.

“We live in a city that is traumatized by a long history of police violence and misconduct,” Lightfoot said. “So while we don’t have enough information to be the judge and jury of this particular situation, it is certainly understandable why so many of our residents are feeling that all too familiar surge of outrage and pain. It is even clearer that trust between our community and law enforcement is far from healed and remains badly broken.”

Nineteen seconds elapsed from when Stillman got out of his squad car to when he shot Toledo. His bodycam footage shows him chasing Toledo on foot down an alley for several seconds and yelling “Police! Stop! Stop right (expletive) now!”

As the teen slows down, Stillman yells “Hands! Hands! Show me your (expletive) hands!”

Toledo then turns toward the camera, Stillman yells “Drop it!” and midway between repeating that command, he opens fire and Toledo falls down. While approaching the wounded teen, Stillman radios in for an ambulance. He can be heard imploring the boy to “stay awake,” and as other officers arrive, an officer says he can’t feel a heartbeat and begins administering CPR.

In a lengthy email, Stillman’s attorney Tim Grace said Toledo left the officer no choice but to shoot.

“The juvenile offender had the gun in his right hand … looked at the officer which could be interpreted as attempting to acquire a target and began to turn to face the officer attempting to swing the gun in his direction,” Grace wrote. “At this point the officer was faced with a life threatening and deadly force situation. All prior attempts to deescalate and gain compliance with all of the officer’s lawful orders had failed.”

But Adeena Weiss-Ortiz, an attorney for Toledo’s family, told reporters after the footage and other videos were released that they “speak for themselves.”

Weiss-Ortiz said it’s irrelevant whether Toledo was holding a gun before he turned toward the officer.

“If he had a gun, he tossed it,” she said. “The officer said, ‘Show me your hands.” He complied. He turned around.”

The Chicago Police Department typically doesn’t release the names of officers involved in such shootings this early on in an investigation, but Stillman’s name, age and race — he’s 34 and white — were listed in the investigation reports released Thursday.

Weiss-Ortiz said that she looked into Stillman’s record but found no prior disciplinary issues.

Lightfoot, who along with the police superintendent had called on the police accountability board to release the video, asked the public to remain calm but decried the city’s long history of police violence and misconduct, especially in Black and brown communities. She said too many young people are left vulnerable to “systemic failures that we simply must fix.”

Choking up at times, Stillman described watching the video footage as “excruciating.”

“As a mom, this is not something you want children to see,” she said.

In addition to posting Stillman’s bodycam footage, the review board released footage from other bodycams, four third-party videos, two audio recordings of 911 calls, and six audio recordings from ShotSpotter, the technology that alerted police to gunshots in that area of Little Village, a predominantly Hispanic and Black neighborhood on the city’s West Side, and led officers to head there that morning.

Toledo, who was Hispanic, and a 21-year-old man fled on foot when confronted by police. The 21-year-old man was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.

The review board initially said it couldn’t release the video because it involved the shooting of a minor, but it changed course after the mayor and police superintendent called for the video’s release.

Previous police shooting videos that went public have sparked major protests, including one released in 2015 showing a white officer shooting Black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times, killing him. The officer was eventually convicted of murder.

Before the latest video’s release, some businesses in downtown Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” shopping district boarded up their windows. Lightfoot said the city has been preparing for months for a verdict in the Chauvin trial and that it had activated a “neighborhood protection plan” ahead of Thursday’s release.

“It happens now that these circumstances are sitting next to each other,” she said.

The Toledo family, meanwhile, issued a statement urging people to avoid violent protests.

“We pray that for the sake of our city, people remain peaceful to honor Adam’s memory and work constructively to promote reform,” the family said.

Lightfoot and attorneys for the family and city said that in addition to the release of the video, all investigation materials should be made public, including a slowed-down compilation of what happened that morning.

“We acknowledge that the release of this video is the first step in the process toward the healing of the family, the community and our city,” they said in a joint statement. “We understand that the release of this video will be incredibly painful and elicit an emotional response to all who view it, and we ask that people express themselves peacefully.”

Whether the officer is charged with a crime is up to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, which gets the accountability board’s report after it completes its investigation.

The Chicago Police Department has a long history of brutality and racism that has fomented mistrust among the city’s many Black and Hispanic residents. Adding to that mistrust is the city’s history of suppressing damning police videos.

The city fought for months to keep the public from seeing the 2014 video of a white officer shooting McDonald, and also tried to stop a TV news station from broadcasting video of a botched 2019 police raid in which an innocent, naked, Black woman wasn’t allowed to put on clothes until after she was handcuffed.

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Crime & Safety State News

Monmouth County Man Admits Posing As Teenager On Facebook To Induce Minor To Send Sexually Explicit Pictures And Videos

TRENTON, N.J. – A Monmouth County, New Jersey, man today admitted to knowingly receiving child pornography, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced today.

Herman Christopher Jensen, 68, of Union Beach, New Jersey, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan to an information charging him with one count of knowingly receiving child pornography.

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Special agents of the FBI began investigating Jensen for assuming the identity of a 17-year-old boy to entice and solicit an underage girl to send nude and sexually explicit images over the internet. Jensen did this by creating a fake Facebook account, purporting to be a teenaged boy named “Kevin Bennett.” From January 2018 through August 2018, Jensen used the “Kevin Bennett” Facebook account to communicate with the victim frequently, causing her to believe that she was involved in a romantic relationship with “Kevin Bennett.”

Jensen requested nude and semi-nude photographs from the victim through Facebook’s messenger service and the victim sent him images. Jensen received increasingly explicit videos depicting the victim engaging in sexually explicit activity.

In August of 2018, Jensen revealed to the victim that he was not the 17-year-old boy he purported to be, but instead an adult named Chris Jensen. The victim continued to communicate with Jensen via the “Chris Jensen” Facebook account. In December 2018, the victim traveled to New Jersey to live with Jensen. On Dec.19, 2018, local authorities removed the victim from Jensen’s residence.

The charge of knowingly receiving child pornography carries a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison, and a statutory maximum fine equal to the greatest of $250,000, or twice the gross amount of any pecuniary gain or loss, whichever is greater.  Sentencing is scheduled for September 14, 2021.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents and task force officers of the FBI and the Red Bank Resident Agencies Jersey Shore Gang and Criminal Organization Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr., with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. She also thanked the Union Beach, New Jersey, Police Department, under the direction of Chief of Police Michael J. Woodrow, for assistance in the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Farhat of the Government Frauds Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Newark.

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Crime & Safety U. S. News

2 suspects arrested in 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart

Two men were arrested Tuesday morning in connection with the disappearance of Kristin Smart, the California college student who vanished in 1996, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at a news conference.

Authorities have not found Smart’s body, Parkinson said, but they have come across forensic physical evidence that they “believe it is linked to Kristin.”

The sheriff talked to her family twice Tuesday, he said.

“I think they are feeling a bit of relief, but as you can imagine until we return Kristin to them, this is not over,” he told reporters. “We have committed to them that we are not going to stop until Kristen has been recovered, no matter what the cause, no matter what the time, we’re committed to that.

The family later released a statement calling it a “bittersweet day.”

“It is impossible to put into words what this day means for our family; we pray it is the first step to bringing our daughter home,” the family said. “While Kristin’s loving spirit will always live in our hearts, our life without her hugs, laughs and smiles is a heartache that never abates.”

“We are pleased that Kristin’s case has now moved to the district attorney’s office, where we know we will be in good hands, and look forward to the day when there will be ‘justice’ for Kristin,” they said.

The two suspects have been booked into the San Luis Obispo County Jail, according to online inmate records.

Paul Flores, 44, has been booked on a murder charge, the records show. No bail amount is listed. Ruben Flores, 80, has been booked on an accessory charge and is being held on $250,000 bail.

The pair are expected to be arraigned on Thursday, though the elder Flores is eligible for bail. CNN has reached out to attorneys for both men.

Reached earlier by phone, Robert Sanger, an attorney representing Paul Flores, said he would not comment on “pending cases.”

District Attorney Dan Dow said his office is looking at the case.

“We are carefully reviewing the evidence and will provide more information as it becomes available,” Dow said in a statement.

Long-time suspect

Last month, authorities searched Ruben Flores’ home in Arroyo Grande.

“Additional evidence related to the Smart investigation was discovered at that time,” the sheriff said, without specifying what was found.

Paul Flores has been the prime suspect in the decades-long missing persons case. Officials have said Flores, who was 19-year-old freshman at the time, walked Smart home. He was the last person to see her on May 25, 1996, authorities have said.

Smart was last seen near her California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly) dorm, but she never made it to her room, police said. Friends and family never heard from her again.

She did not have identification, money or extra clothing when she disappeared, police said. Smart was declared dead in 2002.

Last year, investigators searched Paul Flores’ home, and said they found “items of interest” on the property.

At that time, Flores was detained at his San Pedro, California, home and released back to his home after the search, Tony Cipolla, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, said at the time.

A massive search and repeated interviews with a student who walked with her that night yielded no breaks, and Smart was declared dead in 2002.

In 2016, following leads indicating her body was buried on campus, the FBI flew in three cadaver dogs from its Quantico, Virginia, training facility, and investigators dug up part of the hillside near where the school’s trademark “P” is embedded, to no avail.

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Crime & Safety Local News

Angry Woman Set Huge Paterson Fire That Displaced 60 By Lighting Paper Towels, Indictment Says

Authorities didn’t suggest a possible motive when they announced that detectives had arrested Yanit Valdez, 38, of Manhattan 10 days after the massive Aug. 3 fire on Cianci Street.

However, an indictment returned by a grand jury in Paterson this week accuses Valdez of lighting paper towels on a couch to settle an argument in an upper-floor apartment.

Flames quickly spread through the cockloft, blew through the roof and jumped from building to building. Hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze for hours.

When they finally were done, 20 families had been displaced, several firefighters were hospitalized and half a city block was destroyed, authorities said.

Authorities haven’t identified the relationship between Valdez, who has remained in the Passaic County Jail since her arrest, and the tenant she was arguing with.

A first appearance in Central Judicial Processing Court in Paterson will be scheduled on the indictment, which charges Valdez with arson, aggravated assault and causing widespread injury.

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Crime & Safety State News

Two Essex County Men Arrested for Fraudulent Debit Card Scheme

NEWARK, N.J. – Two Essex County men were arrested today for their roles in a fraudulent debit card scheme, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.

Alateef Perry, 43, of Newark, and Rajohn Dawkins, 25, of Irvington, New Jersey, are charged by complaint with conspiracy to commit access device fraud. Both defendants are scheduled to make initial appearances this afternoon by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From July 2019 through March 2020, Perry and Dawkins fraudulently used debit cards in the names of other individuals, without the cardholders’ consent or knowledge, to purchase diesel fuel for commercial truck drivers in exchange for cash. Perry and Dawkins met commercial truck drivers at multiple gas stations in New Jersey, including gas stations located in Hanover and Middlesex. Perry and Dawkins used the unauthorized debit cards to fill the drivers’ commercial trucks with diesel fuel. The truck drivers then typically paid Perry and Dawkins a fraction of the fuel’s purchase price in cash, which Perry and Dawkins pocketed. Perry and Dawkins used over 500 unauthorized debit cards and ultimately stole over $220,000.

The charge of conspiracy to commit access device fraud carries a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison and a maximum potential fine of $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greater.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the U.S. Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mark McKevitt, with the investigation leading to today’s arrests. She also thanked inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Newark Division, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Rodney M. Hopkins; the Township of Hanover Police Department, under the direction of Chief Mark D. Roddy, and the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura, for their assistance with this investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Samantha C. Fasanello of the Criminal Division in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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Crime & Safety Local News

Three Wounded In Paterson Street Corner Shooting

Three men were shot on a Paterson street corner Thursday night, authorities said.

Responding officers found a 28-year-old victim at 17th Avenue and East 21st Street shortly before 8 p.m.

He was taken to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes and Paterson Police Chief Ibrahim Baycora said in a joint release.

Within minutes, two others – one 29, the other 26 – arrived at St. Joe’s, they said.

None of the injuries were initially considered life-threatening.

Valdes and Baycora didn’t say whether police had arrested or identified any suspects in the shooting.

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Crime & Safety Local News

Authorities: Detectives Bust Driver, Accomplice In Months-Old Passaic Pedestrian Hit-Run

A 27-year-old Passaic driver sped off after his car struck and severely injured another city resident last fall, said authorities who also charged a Prospect Park woman with trying to cover up his involvement.

Matthew Cancel was behind the wheel of a 2015 Mercedes-Benz that struck the 64-year-old victim at Market and Hudson streets on Oct. 25, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes and Passaic Police Chief Luis Guzman said in a joint announcement.

The victim was treated at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson for serious bodily injuries, they said.

Detectives tied Cancel to the crash and charged him with leaving the scene of an accident with serious bodily injury.

They also charged Carinell Pellot, 23, with hindering Cancel’s arrest by lying to police.

Both had first appearances scheduled Wednesday in Central Judicial Processing Court in Paterson.