WATCH: Body Cam Shows New Jersey Cop Lied About Finding Gun

TRENTON, New Jersey >> A Trenton Police officer may have fabricated a probable cause affidavit in a 2016 criminal investigation claiming he found a gun when body-camera footage showed he was standing several feet away talking to a colleague while another cop stumbled upon the gun.

Experts concluded after watching Trenton cop Chris Hutton’s body camera that K-9 officer Drew Astbury lied about key claims he made under oath to obtain an arrest warrant for Tyrawn Carter in an aggravated assault case from September 2016.

The tape also captured cops pressuring Hutton to violate a department order by turning off the body cam once they discovered he was “live.”

Hutton refused to shut off his camera, a decision that may put him in danger because of his refusal to cover up blatant police misconduct, experts said.

“I’d be worried about his safety,” said Philip Stinson, a former cop turned criminologist at Bowling Green State University.

The surfacing of Hutton’s body cam comes at a time when TPD is under heightened scrutiny with federal investigators probing whether officers used excessive force when they pummeled suspect Chanzie Washington during an April 2017 arrest. Suspended officer Anthony Villanueva is also being investigated for macing Quaree Singletary in police lockup as he walked into a cell.

Attorney C.J. Griffin represented The Trentonian which sued to obtain Hutton’s body cam after the city withheld it claiming it was exempt from disclosure because the cops involved in Carter’s arrest were being investigated by internal affairs.

The police department refused to say whether the IA probe is over and declined to disclose what punishment, if any, was handed down to officers caught conspiring over how Astbury would write up his probable cause affidavit to purposely omit details that led to the discovery of a rusted handgun.

Experts who reviewed the footage and the probable cause affidavit pointed to a troubling exchange between Detective Eliezer Ramos and Hutton as damning evidence Astbury lied in his report.

After the gun was found, Ramos was heard quarterbacking the way Astbury would write up the report, and Astbury followed up by writing the report the same way Ramos described on the video.

Stinson called the officers’ actions an example of “noble cause corruption, where the good guy wins at the end of the day because the ends justify the means.”

Rich Rivera, a former cop turned police accountability expert, said Astbury’s and Ramos’ actions constituted criminal misconduct and should be reviewed by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office to determine whether they acted similarly in other cases.

“It’s apparent that the officers on video were discussing concocting a story about their discovery of the weapon,” Rivera said. “The question becomes: How many other times have they done this to people?”

Astbury claimed in the probable cause affidavit he found the “silver and black handgun just inside the chain-link fence,” but he was contradicted by the body camera that showed Hutton actually found the gun.

Astbury swore under oath he found the gun where Carter dropped “the unknown object” in front of the home at 241 Walnut Street on Sept. 9, 2016.

Astbury had a good vantage point claiming he was about 100 feet away from Carter when he saw him turn his body away from the cop and drop something over the chain-link fence.

But if Astbury knew the exact location where the gun was dropped, experts wondered why he and other officers fanned out in the neighborhood searching for the gun.

At one point, Hutton, Astbury and Ramos looked for the gun behind a white house after Hutton received information from a man on a porch that Carter was a gunrunner and may have stashed the gun behind the home.

The cops were stumped until Hutton stumbled across a rusted gun behind the fence in front of the home at 241 Walnut Street.

Astbury and another cop, William Mulryne, who was identified by sources, stood together talking with each other several feet away when Hutton called them over.

“Yo,” Hutton said. “Looks like a pistole.”

Astbury and Mulryne walked over and peered over the fence at the gun, shocked they missed it.

“Worst part is I was just looking over here,” Mulryne responded. “That’s why I should never drink.”

When Hutton pointed to his body cam to let the cop know he was recording, Mulryne came unglued.

“You would be f***ing live,” he said, walking over to warn other cops. “Watch out. Hutton’s live. He don’t f***ing tell nobody.”

Stinson said the exchange raised the specter the gun was planted while cops searched the neighborhood.

Joe Mazza, a retired North Brunswick Police officer who works as a consultant, said Astbury’s disproved claim about finding the gun calls into question the whole investigation.

“Once you have one thing that’s not entirely true, you wonder what else isn’t entirely true,” he said.

One of the most damaging exchanges that led experts to conclude Astbury fabricated his report was a conversation Detective Ramos had with Hutton following the discovery of the gun.

Despite TPD’s general order mandating “all uniformed officers and plain-clothed officers conducting patrol and street operations be equipped” with a body camera, some specialized units don’t wear body cams because it jeopardizes sensitive undercover work, some of which involves using informants.

In this case, the interaction between the cops was captured because Hutton, a patrolman, had his body cam engaged throughout the response to the incident.

He also recorded himself struggling to manipulate the loaded gun he found, pointing out it was “so rusted you can’t even open up the jam.” Hutton turned off the body cam once he finished at the scene.

During their conversation, Hutton pointed out the gun to Ramos who responded, “That’s why he’s f***king nervous.”

Hutton filled Ramos in on the earlier exchange with the man on a porch who had tipped him off about the location of the gun. That conversation was also recorded by the body cam.

“I know I’m sure he doesn’t want to put his name on anything, but can we grab that dude across the street’s name ’cause he’s the one who told us?” Hutton said.

“You know what?” Ramos responded. “Not even. Not even. This is the area where Drew saw him walking, pacing back and forth. This is where he saw him pacing back and forth. Drew saw him. We waited until, you know, we just got here. That’s it. He’s nervous as s**t right now.”

“Yeah, I know he is,” Hutton said.

“Nah, f*** ’em,” Ramos said, referring to Carter.

At that moment, another cop out of view, possibly Mulryne, shouted at Hutton from across the street to turn off the body cam. After hearing that, Ramos looked back at Hutton’s body cam and stepped out of view.

“That’s not what the order says,” Hutton responded. “I’m following the order, bro. Just because he f****n’ doesn’t have his s**t.”

Rivera said Hutton didn’t want to “be caught holding the bag,” which is why he refused to turn off the body cam.

The discrepancies from the tape raised questions for Carter’s attorneys who cited them in motions filed in court.

“It appears to me that the officer intentionally documented the incident on his video so that he’d have some deniability as to what may have taken place,” Rivera said. “Officer Hutton was wiping his hands clean of the misconduct.”

Carter’s case resolved when he agreed to plead guilty to a charge of terroristic threats in exchange for probation.

Stinson said prosecutors may be reluctant to make a case against the officers despite obvious evidence they invented the story about the gun because cops are their “bread and butter” witnesses in criminal cases.

Bringing criminal charges against the officers could impact cases they’ve worked on, forcing prosecutors to drop charges in ongoing cases and reexamine closed ones, experts said.

“Everything they do could potentially be tainted,” Rivera said.