By Robert Florida
Jovanny Crespo, a suspended officer of the Newark Police Department, was convicted by an Essex County jury of First Degree Aggravated Manslaughter, Second Degree Aggravated Assault and Second Degree Official Misconduct for shooting two men, one fatally, during a car chase through Newark in January 2019.
Following a ten-week-long trial before Superior Court Judge Michael Ravin, Crespo, 30, of Newark, was found guilty after four days of deliberations.
On January 28, 2019, Crespo fired his gun at a fleeing vehicle at three locations during the chase after the driver, Gregory Griffin, sped away from a traffic stop. During a miles-long chase through the Newark streets, Crespo shot repeatedly at Griffin’s vehicle, eventually killing Griffin and critically injuring his passenger, Andrew Dixon.
In rendering its verdict, the jury found that Crespo’s repeated use of deadly force during the chase was unjustified under the guidelines set forth by the New Jersey Attorney General. Those guidelines restrict a police officer’s use of deadly force to situations where he or someone else is in “imminent danger.”
The pursuit began at 11:15 p.m. on a Monday night after a Newark police officer spotted a handgun in Griffin’s car. The chase was captured on Crespo’s body worn camera. In the first shooting, Crespo exited his police car and sprinted toward the car and fired three rounds as the car drove away.
On May 21, 2019, Crespo was indicted by an Essex County grand jury on six counts. Today a petit jury convicted him on all six counts.
“When you are a police officer, you are sworn to uphold the law, and today an Essex County jury sent a clear message that they would not tolerate a blatant violation of the law by someone sworn to uphold it,” said Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor Alexander Albu, who tried the case with Assistant Prosecutor Jessica Apostolou. “It is a difficult day when anyone in law enforcement is convicted of a crime, but no one is above the law.’’ Assistant Prosecutor George Gay also assisted Albu and Apostolou in the prosecution of Crespo.
Acting Prosecutor Stephens lauded Albu, Apostolou, and Gay for their diligent work on this case. “DCAP Albu and his team did work following the facts and applying that to the law,” said Stephens. “Just as the vast majority of the public conducts itself in a law-abiding manner, this verdict must not be a reflection on the tremendous work performed by law enforcement on a daily basis.”
Crespo, who has been suspended without pay from his job, was remanded to the Essex County Correctional Facility pending sentencing. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Ravin on September 15, 2023. When he is sentenced, Crespo faces up to thirty years in prison.
By Robert Florida