Two Bergen County police officers were indicted Monday on charges they worked to hide evidence and lied to investigators following a six-town car chase where one officer allegedly opened fire on a burglary suspect in Bogota.
The seven count indictment alleges Bergen County Police Officer Saheed Baksh, 37, removed shell casings from a crime scene after he fired two shots at Francesco Piserchia, who authorities said led officers on a chase from Paramus to West Shore Avenue in Bogota.
Although Baksh fired, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said the casings "which were originally observed at the shooting scene on West Shore Avenue" later went missing.
Another county officer who responded, 52-year-old Jeffrey Roberts, failed to "maintain and preserve" the Bogota scene and allowed Baksh to remove evidence, the indictment alleges.
The two officers are accused of lying under to oath when they gave statements to prosecutor's office investigators probing the police-involved shooting.
Police were chasing Piserchia after he fled a burglary in Paramus on Aug. 12, 2010, the prosecutor said. Baksh, the indictment alleges, shot at Piserchia as he fled a car in Bogota. Piserchia and another suspect, Carlos Camacho, were not hit.
The indictment came after two lawsuits, one seeking $17 million from Bergen County filed by Piserchia and a whistleblower suit , the former head of internal affairs at the county police.
Both suits allege county police officers sought to cover up the shooting. Piserchia also claimed he was surrendering when the officer opened fire.
Molinelli's office has been unable to determine if the shooting was justified because the scene was tampered with, northjersey.com reported.
Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan and Molinelli butted heads on the investigation before the prosecutor reopened an investigation into the incident. Molinelli told the Record he was displeased with how the county police handled its own internal review of the matter. Donovan initially said Molinelli was overstepping his authority before the prosecutor launched a criminal probe into the shooting.
Roberts and Baksh were suspended without pay from the police department Monday, said Jeanne Baratta, Donovan's chief of staff. The officers posted bail and were released, county jail records show.
Lawyers for Roberts and Baksh could not be reached for comment late Monday.
An arraignment on charges including conspiracy to commit official misconduct, official misconduct and false swearing will be scheduled within the next six weeks, the prosecutor's office said.
A copy of the indictment is attached to this article