The West New York man left badly burned after his vehicle was struck during a high-speed police chase has filed a lawsuit against Jersey City seeking millions in damages.
The 19-page lawsuit filed by Miguel A. Feliz-Rodriguez alleges the Jersey City Police Department mishandled the chase of a suspect and then assaulted Felix-Rodriguez while he was engulfed in flames. It does not specify a monetary figure, but the notice of tort claim filed late last year said Felix-Rodriguez would be seeking up to $25 million.
Some 13 months after the fiery crash on Tonnelle Avenue, Feliz-Rodriguez is still recovering from his injuries and also has nightmares and flashbacks, one of his attorneys told the Asbury Park Press.
Jersey City officials did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit details the events of June 4, 2017, when a vehicle being driven by Leo Pinkston was pursued across Jersey City by police. The 6-mile chase ended when Pinkston’s vehicle struck Feliz-Rodriguez’s car on Tonnelle Avenue near the North Bergen border.
Both vehicles went up in flames, and as Feliz-Rodriguez, on fire, crawled out of his car, police drew their guns and commanded him to raise his hands.
“Instead of assisting and providing aid … defendants (Lt. Keith) Ludwig, (police officers MD) Khan, (Francisco) Rodriguez, (Eric) Kosinski and (Enrique) Encarnacion proceeded to attack plaintiff with kicks to the head and body while he was still engulfed in flames,” the lawsuit said.
The assault was recorded by a bystander.
The lawsuit, which also names Police Director James Shea and former Police Chief Phil Zacche, uses Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop’s own words in the wake of the crash against the city.
It points out that in a press conference days after the incident, Fulop called what he saw on the video “outrageous” and also said “A reasonable person that looks at that video would say that those do not look like helping hands.”
Ludwig, Rodriguez, Kosinski, Encarnacion and former officer Khan were suspended and in November they were charged criminally.
Pinkston was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the chase.
Zacche, meanwhile, is awaiting sentencing after admitting to federal authorities that he stole tens of thousands of dollars related to off-duty jobs he never worked for the Jersey City Housing Authority. Sentencing in that matter is scheduled for Aug. 14.
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