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Bergen Prosecutor: Officers Were Justified In Shooting Paterson Gunman

Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal
Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal Photo Credit: Jerry DeMarco

PATERSON, N.J. – Two plainclothes police officers were legally justified in shooting a Paterson armed robber who died of his injuries, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office found after an investigation.

Ismael Miranda conspired with another man, Cesar Rosario, to rob an alleged drug dealer by pretending to buy from him on June 23, Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal said Wednesday.

The dealer drove his minivan to Summer Street with a companion to make the deal and refused to park in a spot suggested by Rosaio “based upon his fear that his might then be boxed in,” the prosecutor said.

While Rosario distracted him, Miranda – with a cloth wrapped around his face – walked up with a loaded handgun, Grewal said.

The intended victim hit the gas, and Miranda fired a shot at the fleeing vehicle, he said.

The two Paterson police officers “were patrolling the area and responded to the commotion on Summer Street,” the prosecutor said. “Both officers were in plain clothes and driving an unmarked police vehicle.”

After seeing Miranda fire the gun, they got out of their car, approached Miranda and “identified themselves both verbally and visually through the outward display of their badges, as police officers,” Grewal said.

Miranda “turned and faced them while still holding the handgun,” he saidl

He then “disregarded the commands of the officers, approached them, and took a position between two cars parked on Summer Street.

“As Miranda raised his arm with the handgun, Officers 1 and 2 fired rounds from their duty weapons at him,” Grewal said.

An autopsy found gunshot wounds to Miranda’s forehead, near his trachea, near his right pectoral muscle and near his right collar bone.

The officers called in “shots fired” and requested Advanced Life Support and an ambulance, the prosecutor said, adding that they also reported the “dark-colored, possibly maroon SUV, was driving northbound on Summer Street,” the prosecutor said.

Responding officers found Miranda slumped up against the rear of a parked car in front of 497 Summer Street.

He was placed on his back and remained unresponsive to first aid, Grewal said.

Nearby, officer found the black, semi-automatic gun with a live round in the ejection port, the prosecutor said.

Paramedics from St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center who arrived soon after said “lifesaving efforts would be futile” and pronounced Miranda dead, he said.

The officers fired a total of seven rounds, Grewal said.

Five discharged bullets were recovered from the scene and two from Miranda’s body, he said.

A Bergen County grand jury indicted Rosario, who pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to commit armed robbery. He faces five years in prison – 85% of which he must serve – when he is sentenced on June 30, the prosecutor said.

Grewal said his office concluded that the officers were justified in firing under a state Attorney General’s directive that says “the use of force upon or towards another person is justifiable when the actor reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.”

The law defines a “reasonable belief” as one which held “by a person of ordinary prudence and intelligence,” the prosecutor noted.

The officers “indicated that they believed their lives were in danger and an independent analysis of the undisputed facts concludes that this belief was reasonable,” he added.

They “were justified in using deadly force because such force was immediately necessary to protect themselves from being shot by Mr. Miranda who had, moments earlier, discharged his firearm in full view of Officers 1 and 2 at a fleeing vehicle. “

The Attorney General’s Office reviewed Grewal’s office’s findings and agreed, and that there “are no material facts in dispute that require presentation of this matter to the grand jury.”

The attorney general assigned the investigation to Grewal to avoid any potential conflict for the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.

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