A man wearing a white hoodie walked up to a silver Honda Accord outside the Caraballo’s Liquor Shop on Market Street late Friday night. He handed dollar bills to the driver and received a clear small plastic bag as police officers Rene Alicea and Christopher Polonkay watched the drug transaction.
Alicea and Polonkay activated the lights of their marked patrol car at about 10 p.m. and quickly got out to approach the Honda.
Jose R. Espinal-Henriquez, 23, of Paterson, became startled. As the two officers approached the front driver’s side of the vehicle and lit the interior with a flashlight, Espinal-Henriquez was seen fiddling with his waistband trying to hide a handgun inside his pants.
Both vigilant officers suspected a handgun. Alicea and Polonkay pulled the unlocked driver side door and removed Espinal-Henriquez from the car.
Espinal-Henriquez was frisked. A handgun was felt in his front waistband. A silver Smith & Wesson .40 cal. handgun, reported stolen out of Columbia, South Carolina, fell down his pants to his ankle, said police director Jerry Speziale. His pants had to be cut open to secure the handgun. 12 rounds were also taken from Espinal-Henriquez. His front right pocket had 1 large bag of cocaine, 1 knotted bag of cocaine, 19 small bags of cocaine, and 1 bag of marijuana.
Pedro Cruz, 26, of Paterson, who approached the vehicle for the alleged drug sale remained standing in front of 495 Market Street. He was ordered to stop, but ignored commands and walked into the liquor shop.
Police entered the liquor store and told Cruz to stop again. He was taken out of the store. He had 1 bag of marijuana on his right front pants pocket, according to police.
Espinal-Henriquez was charged with various weapons and drug charges. Cruz was charged with marijuana possession.
Both police officers, Alicea and Polonkay, stumbled upon the drug sale while patrolling the area around East 18th and Market Streets which is known for violent crime, gang activity, and open-air drug sales.
Alicea joined the police force three years ago while Polonkay came on seven months ago.