ELIZABETH—A Union County Grand Jury handed down an eleven-count indictment Monday against a Hillside man who was involved in a police-involved shooting earlier this year, said Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow. The officers were cleared of any wrongdoing.
Fuquan Stribling, 26, whose last known address was in Hillside, faces charges of aggravated assault, eluding, and weapon charges stemming from an incident that occurred in the early morning hours of March 30.
Earlier that morning, Hillside Police had been alerted to reports of a car thief operating in town. A short time later, Officers Ryan Cruz and Bryan Arrington pulled into a darkened alleyway behind Liberty Avenue around 1:45 a.m. where they observed a red two door Honda awkwardly parked in the alley with a man standing outside, who fit the description of the earlier car thief, said Romankow.
As they approached, the man, later identified as Stribling, jumped into the car. The officers identified themselves and Arrington attempted to open the driver’s side door, while Stribling struggled to keep it closed. Stribling put the car in drive and knocked down the Cruz who had stepped to the front of the vehicle to read the license plate, said Romankow.
At that point, Arrington fearing for his partner’s life, opened fire at the driver. Stribling put the car in reverse but soon putting the car back into drive and again towards the officers, said Romankow.
This occurred several times, with the officers firing at the vehicle as it approached, in an act of self-defense, said Romankow.
While in reverse, the Honda struck a backup unit from the Hillside Police, knocking Officer Shakeema Wilson to the ground while she was exiting it. In response, Wilson’s partner, Officer Matthew Casterline, opened fire at the driver, according to authorities.
The collision with the second police vehicle was so severe that the bumper was broken in two places and metal supports to a front grille guard were snapped, said Romankow.
The car finally came to rest, with Stribling still at the driver’s seat.
It was later revealed that Stribling was not the person wanted in connection with the car thefts, said Romankow. He had left his girlfriend’s house in Newark earlier in the evening with the woman’s car. He picked up another woman from Hillside and the two were engaged in sexual acts when the police approached, authorities said. He was naked at the time officers apprehended him and he was intoxicated, according to blood tests taken at the time, authorities said. A urine screen later revealed that Stribling had drugs in his system as well, authorities said.
The officers provided Stribling with medical attention at the scene and he was later transferred to University Hospital where he underwent treatment for various injuries. None of the officers were seriously harmed.
The Grand Jury, in handing down the indictment, said it was clear that the use of deadly force by the officers was legally justified because their lives were in danger.
An indictment arrest warrant was signed against Stribling by Union County Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy and members of the Prosecutor’s Office arrested him just after 10 a.m. Monday, said Romankow.
The investigation was handled by the Special Prosecutions Unit of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and the case will be handled by Assistant Prosecutor Bart East.
Stribling is charged with the following:
• Four counts of 2nd Degree Aggravated Assault
• Four counts of 3rd Degree Aggravated Assault
• One count of 2nd Degree Eluding
• One count of 4th Degree Obstructing Administration of Law
• One count of 3rd Degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose
“Given the sensitivity of this case we wanted to present the facts to the Grand Jury for a decision,” said Romankow. “The case against Mr. Stribling will now go forward, but it is important to again note that the officers were justified in this case and we are all very lucky that they were not seriously injured.”
Stribling is being held at the Union County Jail. His first court appearance will be in the coming days.
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