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Big blue turnout for court appearance of accused shooter of undercover Paramus officer

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

YOU SAW IT HERE FIRST: A Paterson man accused of shooting a Paramus police officer during an undercover operation in Garfield last week was brought to court in Hackensack today handcuffed to a wheelchair amid heightened security and a large police turnout.

New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Andrew C. Fried read the charges against Rafael Vasquez — attempted murder, aggravated assault, robbery, violating parole and weapons offenses, including being an ex-con possessing a firearm.

Public Defender Jaclyn Medina entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of Vasquez, whose arm was in a modified sling.

Then Vasquez — also known as “King Lucifer” — was returned to the Bergen County Jail, where he remained held on $2 million bail. The case now goes to a state grand jury.

Today’s turnout included Paramus Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg, Deputy Chief Robert Guidetti, Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino  and his undersheriffs, dozens of police officers from Paramus and other towns, as well as some chiefs.

The officer, who was on loan to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Narcotic Task Force when he was shot in the right hip and lower left leg in the Garfield Walmart parking lot last Tuesday, was released over the weekend from Hackensack University Medical Center.

In court today: Paramus police, area police chiefs, officers, Bergen Sheriff Michael Saudino, undersheriffs (PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

CLIFFVIEW PILOT first reported last Wednesday that Vasquez plea-bargained his way out of a pair of attempted murder charges to lesser counts in Passaic County.

As a result, he spent only three months behind bars before being released last Nov. 20, despite a history of violent crime, records show.

Rafael Vasquez STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

A Passaic County grand jury indicted Vasquez, 25, on attempted murder in January 2011. That was merged with a second attempted murder charge a week later — which boosted his bail to $1 million from $350,000, records show.

The 5-foot-5-inch, 140-pound Vasquez — also known as Rafael Vasquez-Pina and Gustavo Canga — pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in exchange for a three-year term. But records show he was soon back on the street, having received credit for time spent behind bars.

The New York City-born ex-con already had a lengthy record before the more serious charges.

These include:

• obstruction and resisting arrest — to which Vasquez pleaded and for which he was sentenced to 364 days in jail in — September 2010;

• charged with robbery brought Vasquez parole in 2009 after a year in prison — again, thanks to credit for time served;

• pleas in 2007 to joy riding and criminal trespassing.

Vasquez was hit in the arm and leg by shots fired by backup officers last Tuesday after he shot the Paramus detective twice in the Walmart parking complex outside the Marshals store off Passaic Street, authorities said.

Rafael Vasquez STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

He was taken to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson to be treated for his injuries before being transferred to the jail Thursday.

Two other men who authorities said were involved in the shooting — Melvin Guzman of Garfield, 18, and 21-year-old Patrick Morel of Clifton — remained held in the county jail on $750,000 bail each..

They’re charged with aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon and two weapons possession charges — one for its use against a law enforcement officer.

STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

RELATED:

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The Paterson man charged with shooting a Paramus police officer during an undercover operation in Garfield plea-bargained his way out of a pair of attempted murder charges to lesser counts in Passaic County three years ago, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has found. READ MORE ….
UPDATE: A Paramus police officer working a Narcotic Task Force detail was ambushed and shot during a $400 marijuana sting in a Garfield department store parking lot this afternoon, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli confirmed early this evening. READ MORE ….

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