The cop who fatally shot a Wyckoff family’s 5-year-old German shepherd was also involved in an alleged 2010 police chase in Newark that ended when the police car he was driving fatally struck a domestic violence suspect.
The cop, Kyle Ferreira, was not charged or indicted in the Newark case, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday. And Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox said that the department knew about the incident when he was hired in February 2012.
Newark agreed to settle a civil lawsuit related to the incident for $350,000, according to federal court documents. Ferreira was among 160 Newark police officers who were laid off in late November 2010 because of budget cuts, an attorney for Newark said.
Fox said that the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office had cleared Ferreira of any criminal wrongdoing in the case and that it was “simply ruled an accident.” He said that Wyckoff authorities were “aware of it, and we investigated it.”
Katharine Carter, a spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, said prosecutors had presented the case to a grand jury, which found “no cause for action” against Ferreira. “In essence, his actions were deemed to be justified,” Carter said.
The police car Ferreira was driving allegedly hit 32-year-old Rahjon Chambers about 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2010, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court. Chambers, who was unarmed, had fled in a car when police responded to a “domestic violence allegation,” according to court papers. The car later crashed. Chambers then got out of the car and was subsequently “struck and killed” by Ferreira’s police car, the suit said.
Last year, the court approved a $350,000 settlement that Newark officials agreed to pay to Chambers’ six children and a brother, whom he was supporting, according to records. While attorneys involved in the case on both sides said it had been settled, the case appears to still be open, according to available records.
On April 29, Ferreira fatally shot a dog, named Otto, on Lawlins Road in Wyckoff while investigating a reported burglary at the wrong address. The Vukobratovic family, which owns the dog, has asked the township to investigate the shooting. However, the family said on Wednesday that the 2010 incident involving Ferreira had nothing to do with Otto’s death.
“People are going crazy about this, but I don’t really care,” Igor Vukobratovic, 25, said Wednesday afternoon. “Whatever happened before is in the past.”
Wyckoff Mayor Kevin Rooney declined to comment Wednesday about whether the Township Committee knew about the Newark case when Ferreira was hired. Rooney referred all questions to Fox.
Separate lawsuits against Ferreira and Newark by Chambers’ family members had been filed in 2011 and 2012 but were later consolidated into one case, according to court records. Family and friends of Chambers began a “Justice for Rahjon” petition on change.org.
A federal magistrate judge, Cathy L. Waldor, approved a settlement last February and said in a hearing on April 30, 2014, that she was “satisfied that it adequately protects the interest of the children, based on the allegations in the complaint,” according to a transcript.
Chambers’ six children, who were between 3 and 17 years old at the time, were slated to receive a little less than $40,000 each after expenses, according to the documents. His brother, who had turned 18, was to get less than $10,000.
The information comes on the heels of a Township Committee meeting on Tuesday night that was preceded by impassioned protests by supporters of the Vukobratovics. During the meeting at Wyckoff Town Hall, Rooney said there was an ongoing police investigation, and he’d requested a detective from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to assist in the investigation. The township also asked for assistance from the state attorney general.
It has not been disputed that Ferreira went to the wrong address. Dispatched to 621 Lawlins Road about 3:45 p.m. on April 29 to investigate a reported burglary, he misheard the dispatcher and went to 622 instead, Fox said.
When no one at 622 Lawlins answered the front door, Ferreira went into the back yard through an unlocked fence gate, Fox said. There, he saw an open window that he thought might be the burglar’s point of entry. Fox said that Ferreira drew his weapon just before a “large, growling” German shepherd came through the ground-level window and attacked him, biting and latching onto his right boot.
Ferreira fired four times, police said, twice hitting Otto. Ferreira wasn’t injured, but Fox said Ferreira’s boot bears minor damage from the attack. Otto was brought to the Oradell Animal Hospital, where he later died.
The Vukobratovics say neighbors who witnessed the shooting have told them that things unfolded differently than the police version.