Former Student Shot By WPU Police Officer Following Car Chase
Sayegh: I am a very hardworking individual with hope of graduating from WPU
Published: Saturday, February 14, 2009
Updated: Saturday, February 14, 2009 03:02
A former William Paterson student shot on Jan. 21 by a campus police officer says he was on campus for legitimate purposes.
Although administrators are calling him a former student, Jack Sayegh, 26, of Franklin Lakes, wrote to this reporter from his university email that he was on campus to meet with his advisor to register for the Spring 2009 semester. He also denied authorities' claims that he was vandalizing or burglarizing a car.
"I am a very hardworking individual with hope of graduating from WPU, but after everything happened, my dreams of graduation with honors will have to be delayed for I am seriously injured and out of commission," Sayegh wrote. He added in a second email that student witnesses can back up his story and that the majority of stories printed about him have been false. He declined to be more specific.
The incident began when campus police officer Craig Simko saw Sayegh attempting to break into a car university spokesman, Stuart Goldstein said. Sayegh has not been charged with attempted burglary.
John Latoracca, chief assistant prosecutor for the Passaic County Prosecutor's office, says that Simko called out to Sayegh and another man to determine what they were doing.
"It appeared that Sayegh was engaged in suspicious activity," Latoracca said. He later added that neither Sayegh nor the man he was with had books or anything with them indicating they were students. "It appeared that they might be looking at cars or perhaps a GPS device," he said.
The officer said something close to "'Stop, stop. I just want to talk to you,'" Latoracca said.
On hearing the officer call out, Sayegh ran to his car while Simko chased him on foot. Before Simko could reach him, Sayegh hopped into his BMW and sped off the campus, Latoracca said.
Campus police chased Sayegh down College Road, during which time Sayegh ran five stop signs and one traffic light before he left the campus, Goldstein said.
Haledon, North Haledon and WPU police cars boxed Sayegh in, forcing him to stop his BMW at 785 Belmont Avenue, Latoracca said. During the arrest, Sgt. Vinas shot Sayegh.
"It went in above the shoulder blade and went through his mid back," Latoracca said describing the path of the sergeant's bullet.
The chief assistant prosecutor also discussed Sayegh's mental state.
"He indicated to the officers while he was being attended to that he suffers from panic attack," Latoracca said.
The Grand Jury will determine whether or not the shooting was justified, Latoracca said. All police shootings, he said, are investigated.
Sayegh faces charges for aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest, disarming a police officer, obstruction of the administration of law and eluding police the published reports indicate.
Was there a struggle?
Latoracca says their office is still investigating whether or not there was a struggle. However he did say Vinas was close to Sayegh when he shot him.
WPU police said there was a struggle.
Sayegh lunged out and pinned Officer Elizabeth Sparks against the car, Terry Bogorad, deputy director of campus police said. When Sayegh swung back at Sgt. Vinas, the policeman fired his gun, she said.
Jason Foy, Sayegh's attorney, denied there was a struggle.
"There was no struggle of any kind. Before he was shot, there were multiple officers there who were in a position to control the situation," Foy said.
The attorney wanted to correct what he said are inaccuracies in how his client's actions have been perceived.
"We deny that he was breaking into a car. He was at the campus for legitimate purposes," he said.
Foy cautioned that he is still investigating, but he discussed the legal ramifications of Vinas' actions on Belmont Avenue.
"That presents a legal problem for the officer when he shoots an unarmed man in the back," Foy said.
According to Foy, his client is the victim.
"He didn't have a weapon, threaten violence, or act like he had a gun of any kind, yet he was shot in the back."
This is the second time a WPU campus police officer fired their gun in the past year. On April 28, 2008 an officer observed a former student allegedly burglarizing a room in Overlook Residence Hall. The officer challenged the student and the student allegedly charged the officer. During the altercation the officer's gun fired. Nobody was injured.