On a large banner atop its website, the Jersey City Police Department promises to uphold “Courtesy, Accountability, Respect & Excellence.”
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has a different word: “Unacceptable.”
Fulop used the word to describe Jersey City officers caught on video last weekend kicking an innocent man lit on fire after a police chase and shooting caused a fiery crash, igniting the man’s clothing in the process.
The man on fire was not the suspect pursued by officers, but a bystander ― though it’s not clear the officers in the video were aware of that at the time as they approached him with guns drawn. They then began kicking him as he rolled on the ground in flames, panicked.
After delivering several blows to his head and torso, knocking the man to the ground, the video shows officers dragging him away from the vehicle and into the street.
“They didn’t help him, they just started kicking him and grabbing him,” bystander Erik Roberto told NBC New York. “I don’t think they treated him the right way, and that’s not how you treat any human in this world.”
In addition to labeling the incident “unacceptable,” Mayor Fulop called Wednesday for the officers to be identified, adding on Twitter, “We’ll pursue termination + criminal charges as appropriate.”
Neither the Jersey City Police Department nor the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association immediately responded to a request for comment from HuffPost, but in a statement distributed to local media, the association’s President Carmine Disbrow said, though it looked violent, officers were actually trying to extinguish the flames.
“As it should be, this entire incident is being fully investigated,” Carmine Disbrow told NJ.com. “Taking swift action isn’t always elegant, but this video clearly shows that the officers acted quickly to extinguish the flames, and pull this man out of harm’s way.”
The man, identified by CBS4 as 28-year-old Miguel Feliz, was hospitalized and scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday. Feliz’s father told NBC NY his son was on his way to work at the time.
Officers did also capture the actual suspect that sparked the chase by fleeing a traffic stop, 48-year-old Leo Pinkston. He’s been charged with aggravated assault and eluding the police. Pinkston’s wife told NJ.com Wednesday her husband has been struggling with a drug addiction and recently relapsed.