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New York Attorney General Letitia James is recommending police stop arresting suspects wanted on certain warrants during traffic stops after deciding against charging an NYPD sergeant in the shooting death of a motorist in 2019.
According to a report that was released Friday and was compiled by James’ Special Investigations and Prosecution Units, the AG’s office looked at an incident involving Allan Feliz, 31, who was shot by Sgt. Jonathan Rivera during a traffic stop in the Bronx in October, the New York Post reported.
The motorist was pulled over for allegedly not wearing a seatbelt. But when officers asked for his identification, Felix handed them his brother’s license. When officers ran it, they discovered the sibling had three open warrants — for littering, spitting, and disorderly conduct, all of which are violations and not criminal actions.
Cops asked Feliz to step out of the vehicle and after initially complying, the Post noted, he got back in and tried to drive away. In a rush, Rivera jumped into the passenger side of the vehicle, but Feliz would not surrender.
As he continued to drive away, eventually Rivera discharged his weapon when it appeared as though Feliz had run over his partner, according to a police after-action report.
James, whose campaign for AG was funded in part with money from billionaire leftist George Soros, could not find a reason to charge Rivera, but noted that vehicle stops like the one involving Feliz ought not to be made by police officers because “the vast majority of traffic stops — including this one — do not involve criminal conduct, yet the involvement of police in such situations can result in violent interactions.”
“The report also highlighted studies demonstrating disparities in the use of force during traffic stops against Black and Latino men. The untimely death of Mr. Feliz further underscores the need for this change,” the report notes further.
If instead the NYPD chooses to continue conducting traffic stops, the AG said officers should not arrest people wanted on bench warrants for low-level violations like failure to appear in court or offenses like littering.
“The OAG believes that such a policy properly balances the risks to the community and the public interest in avoiding unnecessary arrests during car stops. In addition, the OAG encourages state lawmakers to consider whether this issue might also be more fully addressed through legislation,” says the report.
“It is highly unlikely that the incident involving Mr. Feliz – whose warrants (Sammy Feliz warrants) were for the violations/offenses of spitting, littering, and disorderly conduct – would have escalated in the manner it did in the absence of this automatic arrest policy,” it added.
That said, in a subsequent search of the vehicle Feliz was driving, officers discovered more than nine grams of cocaine and 1.3 grams of methamphetamines in tablet form. They also found out he was on parole for a federal offense.
“Because Mr. Feliz was under federal parole supervision at the time of the incident, possession of these controlled substances would likely have violated the conditions of his release and, if convicted for possession of one or more felonies, subjected him to a mandatory New York State prison sentence,” said the report.
Nevertheless, James described Feliz’s death as a “tragedy,” adding that her office is “gravely concerned” about the actions of Rivera and other responding officers.
Law enforcement officials and other experts have blasted such policies as fomenting lawlessness and resultant spikes in crime in cities around the country where they have been implemented mostly by like-minded district attorneys.
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