Reed St. video surfaces amid speculation over job status of Chief Mike Kelly
As speculation regarding the job status of Chief Mike Kelly swirls throughout the JCPD, video from the infamous Reed St. incident – an event which has haunted the police chief’s reputation ever since – has surfaced a decade later.
On the same day Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) Chief Mike Kelly signed a personnel order appointing provisional-Deputy Chief Mark Miller as acting chief “until further notice,” Real Jersey City received CCTV video from the infamous Reed St. incident that resulted in the death of Det. Marc DiNardo and wounding of four other officers – prompting questions about Kelly’s future with the JCPD amid internal disputes.
Internal Dispute over Chesler & O’Neill charges
According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Kelly and Public Safety Director James Shea have been “butting heads” over multiple issues recently – especially disciplinary charges against Lt. Kelly Chesler & Officer Michael O’Neill.
The charges stem from the same unsubstantiated allegations of fraud related to the Pulaski Skyway and Route 139 rehabilitation projects which were the basis of a 107-count indictment by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO) back in June 2016.
The criminal case was ultimately dismissed by HCPO First Deputy Assistant Prosecutor Peter Stoma in October 2018 after Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mirtha Ospina acquitted O’Neill and ended the “paper oriented” aspect of the “circumstantial case.”
Since then, Chesler and O’Neill have been fighting the city for backpay and reimbursement of legal fees (read Jersey Journal report here). As previously noted by Real Jersey City, Shea told city labor attorney Scott Carbone on February 8, 2019, during one of the breaks in the Goldrich trial, that “we’re not going to give [Chesler & O’Neill] their backpay because they’re gonna use the money on lawyers to sue us.”
Chesler and retired Capt. Joseph Ascolese, who was a co-defendant in the criminal trial, filed a lawsuit in 2015 claiming retaliation for reporting alleged sexual harassment of Chesler and racism within the JCPD. Shea was named as a defendant in the original complaint and would benefit legally if the charges against Chesler were sustained.
Of note, it’s not clear whether O’Neill will file his own lawsuit at this time. Regardless, Shea is looking for legal protection, yet it seems like the JCPD Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) might not sustain the charges against Chesler & O’Neill because they’re scared of their own legal liability.
For example, Lt. Robert Sjosward – who led the investigation which resulted in the 107-count indictment – recently retired from the JCPD as Chesler & Ascolese are fighting to add him to the lawsuit. Like many IAU officers, Kelly wants no part of the litigation, but if he were to override an IAU decision and sustain the charges for Shea, he would be named as a defendant quickly.
For Kelly, it’s probably not worth it to carry water for Shea and Mayor Steven Fulop – even if it means losing his job.
Reed St. video surfaces
Shea & Fulop probably realize it’s not worth it for Kelly to sustain charges against Chesler & O’Neill. Also, firing the police chief at this time might be another legal disaster – given that it might spur Kelly to file his own lawsuit (or at the least motivate him to provide favorable testimony for Chesler & Ascolese).
Simply put, the best case scenario for Shea & Fulop is for Kelly to retire and then promote someone to police chief that’s willing to do their dirty work. That’s why CCTV recordings from the infamous Reed St. incident surfacing last week was rather peculiar – given that it might shame Kelly enough to have him retire.
The Reed St. incident occurred on July 16, 2009, when five police officers were wounded during gunfighting – including Det. Marc DiNardo, who tragically died from his injuries. The shooting began during a stakeout of two armed robbery suspects, Hassan Shakur and Amanda Anderson, who were ultimately killed by police during the incident. Video below is from the initial gunfight & police response:
Real Jersey City reached out to former JCPD Chief Robert “Bubba” Cowan – a person who had his own issues with IAU, disciplinary charges, and Shea & Fulop – for comment on the video. Cowan, who now owns & operates a private investigation business, but was a member of the JCPD at the time of the incident, said:
The moment Lt. Kelly, then commander of the major case squad, had located the violent offender’s parked vehicle on Reed Street, he had a responsibility to secure the scene and notify the nighttime citywide commander of the department; who in turn should have placed the on duty commander of the highly-trained emergency services unit in tactical command at the scene.
If Lt. Kelly had acted responsibly and in accordance with proper police procedure and best practices, the moment Hassan Shakur and/or his accomplice Amanda Anderson raised a weapon in the street, both would have been neutralized by members of the ESU.
As well, Lt. Kelly was dressed as though he was heading to a tennis match rather than to a nighttime surveillance of a violent offender. To be kind, what I saw in that video was a dismal failure in leadership.
Another law enforcement source, speaking off-the-record, was infuriated with Kelly’s actions after viewing the video because “he exposed all the responding officers to unnecessary danger by casually walking in front of the suspect’s building, potentially in the line of fire.”
Speculation over job status of Chief Mike Kelly
While some sources have said Kelly’s order appointing Miller acting chief “until further notice” led to unfound speculation, many see the writing on the wall – it looks like the police chief might be towards the end of his tenure.
Remember, beyond the Chesler & O’Neill situation, the city council is starting to ask questions about excessive police overtime costs, there’s still no answers on the Forgotten Five, off-duty work remains a sensitive subject, and the body-cam rollout has been a disaster – highlighted by kids playing with fireworks getting shot.
Politically speaking, it seems like the perfect time for Mayor Fulop to blame someone other than James Shea for the failures of the JCPD. Plus, Fulop & Shea need to find someone to sustain charges against Chesler & O’Neill (if Kelly doesn’t cave in).
Given his prior work in IAU, Miller might not be the right candidate (despite his close ties to county leadership, notably Craig Guy). Provisional-DC Patricia Cassidy would probably be ideal for Shea, especially given Fulop’s disingenuous spin on appointing women into top leadership positions and her track record of nepotism & cronyism. There’s also provisional-DC Edgar Martinez, but he’s currently under fake investigation by the HCPO (similar to how Phil Zacche once was).
Nevertheless, it’s unfortunate that video of what might be Mike Kelly’s worst moment has come to light at what might be his finest (if he’s actually doing right by exercising his authority and saying no to Fulop & Shea).
Finally, on August 8, 2019, the same day the memo appointing Miller as acting chief was issued, Jersey City Spokesperson Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione did not answer an email asking whether Mayor Fulop had any “personal & professional knowledge” regarding Kelly’s actions during the Reed St. incident.