Jersey City Stolen Lives: Tragedy in Three Acts
Revolutionary Worker #928, October 19, 1997
July 16, 1991, early evening:
Maximino Cintron was tinting the windows of a friend's car when two plainclothes police pulled up in an unmarked car. The cops were transporting a prisoner named Jose Torres to jail in the back seat, but they stopped to tell Maximino to move his car. After a verbal exchange, the officers began writing a ticket: illegally repairing a car in the street, $20 fine. The police claim that Maximino Cintron tore up the ticket and threw it at them and that then 20 people attacked them. Surrounded, they say, Officer John Chiusolo fired at Cintron.
But seven witnesses testified before a grand jury that the officers were abusive and did not show badges. Witnesses said that Maximino took the ticket, told the officers that he'd "put it with the rest of his collection," and then tore it up and threw it on his windshield. Chiusolo became enraged and attacked Maximino, putting him in a headlock. Maximino struggled out of the headlock, and the two men stood facing each other.
Chiusolo pulled his gun. Maximino began backing up, saying, "All right, all right, what are you going to do, shoot me?" At that point, according to the witnesses, Chiusolo fired into Maximino's upper abdomen, severing his aorta. While Maximino Cintron bled to death in the street, the first ambulance on the scene transported Chiusolo and his partner to the hospital for treatment for bruises.
Neighbors said that Maximino, a truck driver, had never been in trouble and was "a hard worker" who always helped friends. He had moved to Jersey City as a child from Puerto Rico with his mother and seven sisters. He was 23 years old when he was killed, leaving a widow, Maria, and "Little Max," their 1-year-old son.
Weeks of protest followed, including a march of over 400 people. Much came to light about the background of Officer John Chiusolo. At the time that he killed Maximino Cintron, he had had a number of brutality complaints filed against him and was facing civil action for an assault on Rodolpho Rodriguez, a 30-year-old video store owner and cartoonist.
Rodriguez, 5'4" and 130 pounds, said that Chiusolo had attacked him when Rodriguez had tried to write down the number of Chiusolo's patrol car after the officer verbally abused him. Rodriguez suffered several broken ribs and a concussion and lost the use of his left arm following the assault. But the courts ruled against him in his suit.
Despite Chiusolo's history and the eyewitness testimony, the grand jury found the killing of Maximino Cintron justified and refused to indict Chiusolo or his partner. Instead they charged Maximino's friend George Rodriguez with aggravated assault on a police officer.
May 7, 1995, 3:30 a.m.
Less than four years after the killing of Maximino Cintron, Julio Tarquino, his fiancée and a friend went to a gas station convenience store late one night to buy some food. Witnesses agree that two white men began taunting and insulting the group, and that Julio and his friends headed to their car to leave.
As they were leaving Officer John Chiusolo, the cop who killed Maximino Cintron, drove up. According to a witness not party to the dispute, the off-duty, out-of-uniform Chiusolo handcuffed Julio Tarquino and beat him to the ground, kicking him over and over again in the head. Julio's fiancée attempted to reason with Chiusolo, only to be beaten in turn. Tarquino was arrested for assaulting an officer, then taken to Christ Hospital in Jersey City and treated. He was released back into police custody at 6:30 a.m., "coherent and even joking," according to hospital personnel.
Six hours later Tarquino was returned to jail--a time lapse that has never been accounted for. Fifteen minutes later, he was found slumped over in his cell, convulsing. Julio Tarquino was an immigrant from Bolivia, a housepainter and contractor. He was 22 years old and a good-humored and hard-working person, according to his family and friends. On May 11, Julio Tarquino, engaged to be married, died of skull fractures.
Community protests again followed. And shortly after Tarquino's death, German Barrantes, aged 31, came forward to say that Chiusolo had beaten him at a traffic stop on May 4, just a few days before the killing of Julio Tarquino. Outrage grew. Chiusolo was indicted by the grand jury for second-degree manslaughter in September 1995.
As of September 1997, Chiusolo remains out on bail. No court date has yet been set.
July 19, 1995
In the early evening of a hot July night, two months after the death of Julio Tarquino, Jersey City police officers Hazecamp and Wolfe pulled over 24-year-old Bobby Rodriguez for allegedly running a stop sign. Police claim that the unarmed Rodriguez then jumped out of his van and ran into a vacant lot. The officers gave chase, with Wolfe saying that Rodriguez scuffled with him and that he, Wolfe, lost control of his weapon. Wolfe's gun went off three times. Hazecamp then shot Bobby Rodriguez four times, and Rodriguez died on the spot. Both Wolfe and Hazecamp suffered a minor wound each.
Witnesses again disputed the police account. Several people said that they had run to the vacant lot when they heard shots and arrived to see Bobby Rodriguez face down in a pool of blood, with the officers removing handcuffs from behind Rodriguez's back. The cops denied it. Why Bobby Rodriguez would have abandoned his van, run from the police, and dared to brave police gunfire over a mere traffic violation was never explained.
Bobby Rodriguez had been driving home to pick up his companion and take him to work. His companion was none other than Jose Torres, the prisoner who was being transported in the back of the cop Chiusolo's car the night that Chiusolo killed Maximino Cintron! Jose Torres told the press that ever since he had testified to the grand jury in 1991, the Jersey City police had continually harassed him and Rodriguez.
The local newspaper pointed out that, along with the murder of Julio Tarquino, this was the fourth police killing of a civilian in 10 months. The other cases were 18-year-old Khary Grimes, accused of car theft and threatening an officer with a b.b. gun, as well as another man accused of pointing a gun at police. In both cases, no witnesses other than the police were present. The list in the paper did not include Armando Lopez, found hanging in his cell on June 12, 1994, in custody of the Jersey City police.
The grand jury ruled the killing of Bobby Rodriguez to be justifiable homicide. No indictment was returned.
When officers like Chiusolo emerge blinking into the light, we are told that they are "bad apples." This particular "bad apple," like all the other "bad apples" in all the other cities, was defended by the police department, the city government and his fellow police for years and years. Defended over and over again, despite numerous complaints and a documented history of beatings and murder. In fact, instead of punishment or even removal for Chiusolo, we see what looks an awful lot like a pattern of retribution against those who dared to accuse Chiusolo.
Not every single officer need behave like Chiusolo--indeed, a department full of such mad dogs could actually be counterproductive for the system. But every department, from top to bottom, will defend the Chiusolos among them until it is no longer politically possible. The Chiusolos, Andayas, Livotis, Fuhrmans, and Volpes are let go only reluctantly, only in the face of mass anger and struggle, when the powers-that-be feel too politically exposed to keep them on any longer.
Why? One can only conclude that they defend them because the system requires a certain number of mad dogs in every precinct of every department. And what does the system need them for? To create and enforce a climate of arbitrary and unpredictable terror, terror that is designed to intimidate and break the spirit of the people in those communities whom they aim to suppress.
It is exactly this climate of terror which must be broken and conquered by the people, and replaced by a community of resistance. This community and spirit of resistance is in fact growing, through struggle, in the streets. And as we go up together against that climate of terror, as we oppose these murderers and their life-stealing ways, we must raise, and answer, the questions: what kind of system requires, trains and rewards the Fuhrmans, the Volpes and the Chiusolos? What kind of society, and what kind of movement, can deliver justice? And how do we get there?
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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