The off-duty Passaic County sheriff’s officer, who witnessed a shooting on Belmont Avenue and began chasing the suspect through a backyard ultimately ending with a discharge of his service weapon, has been cleared by a grand jury, according to a public statement released last month by Passaic County prosecutor Camelia Valdes.
Fernando Sanchez was justified in firing his weapon at the suspect, according to authorities. Authorities conducted an investigation that included canvassing, interview of witnesses, submission of ballistic evidence, and examination of physical evidence.
Investigators also reviewed 911 and radio transmission. Results of the investigation was presented to a grand jury which last month declined to indict the officer in the Oct. 27, 2014 incident.
Police had been dispatched to Belmont Avenue and North 9th Street at about 5:30 p.m. on report of a shooting to find a 24-year-old man with a gunshot wound.
Sanchez, clad in full uniform, had just finished his shift. He was driving through the area in his personal vehicle when he witnessed the shooting and pursued the suspect on foot.
Sanchez chased the suspect through backyards. He identified himself and ordered the suspect to stop and show his hands. The suspect reportedly turned towards him in an aggressive manner and pulled a handgun out of his pocket, according to authorities.
Sanchez fired a single round at the suspect. He missed. The suspect turned and fled.
No one was physically injured in the use-of-force incident.
Sanchez was placed on modified duty during the investigation by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, said Bill Maer, spokesman for the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office on Friday evening.
Maer said Sanchez later resigned from his position. He had been working for the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office since Dec. 3, 2012, according to county payroll records.
The suspect Sanchez chased through the backyards remains at large. Authorities ask anyone with information about the suspect to call 1-877-370-PCPO or email email@example.com.