YONKERS, N.Y. -- An NYPD officer who shot an unarmed Yonkers man after a high-speed chase in the Bronx that ended with a confrontation in a wooded area last year, has been cleared by the state attorney general’s office, according to an investigative report.
The report, released on Wednesday, investigated the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Miguel Espinal, 35, by Officer Garthlette James on Dec. 8, 2015.
In a statement, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said the investigation “found no criminal culpability in the death of Mr. Espinal.”
He added that James' use of force was justified and that forensic evidence backed up the account surrounding the shooting.
“Mr. Espinal’s death is a tragedy, and I extend my condolences to his family,” Schneiderman said. “We undertook an exhaustive, year-long review of this case -- and remain committed to ensuring comprehensive review and transparent accounting of all cases that fall under the Executive Order. The investigation of this case and many others would have benefitted greatly from videotaped evidence, and I urge policy makers and police departments across the state to implement body- and dashboard cameras.”
The incident took place when James and his partner Officer Romeo Francis tried to pull over the vehicle that Espinal was driving that had heavily tinted windows.
Rather than stopping, Espinal sped onto the Henry Hudson Parkway, collided with two other vehicles, and continued onto the Saw Mill River Parkway, where he made a U-turn, drove south against traffic in the northbound lane, and collided with three other cars, the statement said.
Espinal then jumped from his vehicle and ran into the wooded area adjacent to the Parkway.
According to the report, James and his partner pursued Espinal. James said that that he when he caught up with Espinal, he wrestled him to the ground but he resisted and reached for the officer's gun, the statement said.
James fired one shot into the chest of Espinal, who was pronounced dead at the scene by a paramedic who was called to the scene.
The report explained that given that there were no witnesses to the shooting other than the officer's, and no videotaped evidence, the investigative team relied heavily on extensive forensic evidence to assess the credibility of James’ account, including autopsy, microscopy, and toxicology records from the Westchester Medical Examiner’s Office and forensic analysis reports including firearms, trace analysis, gunshot residue, and DNA reports.