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Activist in Leonia police shooting leading memorial service in Garfield incident

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A group is organizing a memorial gathering in Garfield next Monday, a year to the day a man was shot and killed by police after he fled headquarters, hid in a shed and advanced on the responding officers with a tool in each hand.

Meanwhile, one of the chief organizers of the event today claimed that Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli should order the police chiefs in Palisades Park and Leonia to release the names of officers involved in the recent fatal shooting of a knife-wielding man who came at them moments after robbing a Broad Avenue CVS in Leonia.

“It’s outrageous that the prosecutor puts the onus on the police chiefs to release names at the same time he has a standing order effectively muzzling a chief’s comments to the media during these investigations,” said Richard Rivera (above, right ), a former West New York police officer who represented Malik Williams in Garfield and is now speaking on behalf of the family of Rickey McFadden in Leonia. “This is appalling.”

Molinelli told CLIFFVIEW PILOT recently that he hadn’t issued any directives to either chief and, out of courtesy to them and their officers, is leaving the identifications to them. Both are clearly aware of the state Attorney General’s specific guidelines in such cases, the prosecutor said.

Leonia Police Chief Jay Ziegler hasn’t spoken publicly about the issue, but Palisades Park Police Chief Benjamin Ramos told CLIFFVIEW PILOT last week that he wouldn’t release any names until a review by the prosecutor’s office — required by the state Attorney General in fatal police shootings — is complete.

CLIFFVIEW PILOT was the first to report exclusively that interviews with the officers were postponed last week ( SEE: Civilians urged Leonia robbery suspect to drop knife before shooting ).

“[I[t is unfair to the surviving family to be misled by the head of the lead investigating agency,” Reyes said today. “Public confidence will not be restored until the Attorney General takes over the investigation of Ricky McFadden.  The establishment of statewide uniform policies for in-custody use of force that include state of the art, non-lethal force are long overdue.”

Rivera and Reyes were also involved in protests that followed the fatal shooting of Malik Williams last year.

Members of Rivera’s group, U.R.G.E.N.T., continue to insist that Williams was shot “under questionable circumstances” — as they say have other young men nationwide — despite a grand jury’s finding that the shooting was justified, and without any eyewitnesses or other evidence to substantiate their claim.

“The repercussions from  these acts is far-reaching,” said Miguel Reyes, a spokesperson for the group U.R.G.E.N.T., said today. “Communities become divided along racial and ethnic lines that manifest feelings of mistrust and suspicion.

“The U.R.G.E.N.T. mandate is to continue to be an advocate for change and shed a light on these acts of injustice in order to keep this issue in the public conscience,” Reyes added. “The list of fatal shootings and wrongful imprisonments continue to grow.

“Our speakers are going to give a voice to these issues with facts and personal stories of their experiences in order to expose the heart of the problem.”

The argument flies in the face of results.

As CLIFFVIEW PILOT first reported, Williams turned himself in to Garfield police last Dec. 10 in response to a warrant for his arrest on aggravated assault charges in connection with a fight he had with his girlfriend.

While they were processing him, Williams bolted.

Several officers chased him north along the railroad tracks near police headquarters, as a Bergen County Police K-9 unit was summoned.

As CLIFFVIEW PILOT first reported exclusively, the police dog tracked Williams directly to a private residential garage on Dahnerts Park Lane.

A Garfield police officer and Bergen County officer found the side door barricaded shut, so they tried the bay door. It opened and the officers confronted Williams, who Molinelli said had armed himself with tools gathered from the garage.

Williams was shot several times and was later pronounced dead at Hackensack University Medical Center.

The 5-foot-10, 150-pound Williams had been arrested three times in two years in Bergen County, once for resisting arrest and eluding and two more times for aggravated assault — including an incident in May last year for which he had to post $25,000 bail, public records show.

The grand jury investigation included evidence collected by the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department, statements taken by Molinelli’s detective and an autopsy conducted by the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Several protests were held, some organized by Rivera, who retired on a disability pension after four years as a West New York cop as part of a settlement after he was terminated on charges of writing a swastika on a test booklet.

Rivera contended that the West New York charges, while true, were brought in retaliation for his cooperation with the FBI in a corruption probe. He said that he drew the symbol after learning that it once represented peace in the Hindu culture.

A state court in February rejected Rivera’s bid to rejoin the department, citing a $675,000 settlement in which he agreed not to seek reinstatement there.

Molinelli earlier this year characterized Rivera, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress as an independent against Bob Menendez in 1998, as a “self described public advocate for police affairs and police brutality issues.”

This came after both Rivera and Reyes were briefly arrested after showing up unannounced at the prosecutor’s office and refusing to leave.

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