Police officers in Jersey City, New Jersey, are feeling the heat after being captured on video allegedly beating the victim of a fiery car crash.
Miguel Feliz was driving home from work on Sunday evening when a vehicle being chased by police crashed into his car and a utility pole, igniting all three.
Witness video captured Feliz exiting his vehicle and rolling on the ground while attempting to remove clothing engulfed in flames.
Moments later, several police officers approach Feliz while pointing their guns. Some officers appear to kick him, then drag him into the street.
The incident left Feliz in critical but stable condition, with severe burns to 30 percent of his body, his family told Univision.
The man who led police on the chase that injured Feliz has been identified as 48-year-old Leo Pinkston.
That evening, Pinkston was involved in two separate car crashes as he fled police.
Pinkston made his first appearance in court on Thursday and was charged with “one count of eluding in violation and one count aggravated assault,” according to a statement by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
‘Help him out’
Erik Roberto, who shot the video on his cellphone, expressed shock and anger over the incident.
“The video shows clearly what I saw,” Roberto told CNN. “I thought the police are going to help him.”
Roberto can be heard in the video shouting “oh no, no, help him out, help him out.” Upset by the officers’ response, Roberto left the scene. “I couldn’t sleep that night, I was so frustrated,” he said.
Police, however, insist they were attempting to rescue Feliz.
“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,” Carmine Disbrow, president of the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association, said in a statement.
Roberto said he does not believe the police union’s version of events.
“You can see it completely different in the video,” Roberto said. “He didn’t have fire on his chest and that’s where they beat him.” Roberto added that he has nothing against police, but believes they did not do the right thing in this situation.
Officers face termination
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has also expressed concern over the incident and promised “to be aggressive” once the policemen involved are identified.
“We are going to pursue termination and criminal charges where appropriate,” Fulop told CNN affiliate News 12. “We are not going to let some poor judgements from police officers reflect on the entire police department.”
Esther Suarez, Hudson County Prosecutor, released a statement on Thursday urging restraint.
“I am asking the community to withhold any judgement until the Office of the Hudson County Prosecutor concludes its investigation,” Suarez said. “There will be a swift and fair review of all the evidence being accumulated, but it would be irresponsible to rush to judgement without reviewing all of the facts before us.”