WATCH: Surveillance Cam Shows Off-Duty Cop Sparked Bar Fight Then Killed a Man

The surveillance video of a 2016 fistfight and fatal shooting in front of a Union Township bar isn’t easy to watch. But the jurors who last week convicted former Newark Police Officer Joseph Macchia of reckless manslaughter in the shooting death of Michael Gaffney watched it dozens of times.

Macchia, 36, and Michael Gaffney, 37, had both been drinking at Paddy’s Place on May 13, 2016 when the two acquaintances got into a fight after exchanging words.

They were separated, but Macchia followed Gaffney back to the bar and after a few minutes, they started to fight again. The video — an edited version of which is included in this story — shows that Macchia was on the ground when he drew his service weapon from his hip holster and shot Gaffney three times in the torso. Police arrived almost immediately after, but Gaffney died.

The video was played repeatedly at trial while witnesses testified about the fight, but the jurors still asked to watch it an additional 22 times during their six days of deliberation, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor John Esmerado.

“It was very sad and completely preventable,” Esmerado said of the incident. “I’ve watched that video over 100 times and I think the same thing every time.”

The prosecutor’s office provided the video in response to a records request.

Esmerado said Tuesday that the video was important at trial not only because it shows the moment of the shooting, but because it helps support the prosecution’s theory that Macchia provoked the second flare-up of the fight.
Macchia testified that he fired his gun in self-defense, so the prosecution had to prove that he instigated the final fight, making his self-defense claim legally invalid, Esmerado said. The jury agreed.

The video supported witness testimony that after the first fight, Macchia followed Gaffney back to the bar door, and repeatedly shouted at Gaffney inside the bar, “I’m not done!”

Eventually Gaffney came back to the door and the fight picked up again, Esmerado said. Throughout both fights, numerous people are seen trying to pull the two apart, including friends and staff of Paddy’s Place.

Macchia testified that he followed Gaffney back to the bar and spoke to him because he was trying to reconcile, Esmerado said. During deliberations, jurors asked to review his testimony at trial and from two grand jury proceedings, as well as his statements to police immediately after the shooting and in the following days. Esmerado said they contained “inconsistencies.”

Judy Valdes, Gaffney’s mother, said that it was painful for her to be in court when the video was played, but she knew it would help convict her son’s killer.

“You can’t help but see the evidence right there,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. “My son was unarmed. This was a fistfight that turned into a gunfight.”

Each time the video played in court, Valdes tried to step out of the room or put her head down, but she said she wasn’t able to miss the fatal moment every time.
“They kept bringing it back, and to sit there and watch my child die,” she said. “No mother should have to go through this.”

Gaffney had a 13-year-old daughter and had recently purchased a home in Piscataway with his girlfriend when he died. Valdes said she was very close with her son.

“He would call me every day to say, ‘I love you,'” she said. “I would say, ‘I love you more,’ and every time he’d say, ‘Impossible.'”

She said she is grateful to Esmerado and the prosecutor’s office for their work on the case. After Macchia is sentenced July 27, she hopes to throw herself into work to pass Gaffney’s Law.
Valdes and her loved ones are pressing lawmakers to propose legislation to make it a crime for law enforcement officers to carry firearms when they’re drinking.

Macchia’s blood alcohol content after the shooting was 0.13, according to the prosecutor’s office.
After the verdict, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan called the case a “prime example of the tragic and senseless consequences that often arise when alcohol and firearms align.”

Immediately after the shooting in 2016, Newark Fraternal Order of Police President James Stewart Jr. said he believed the surveillance video would show Macchia was justified in shooting Gaffney.

“Obviously, the jury didn’t see it that way,” Stewart said Tuesday. He said it appeared to him the Macchia was being violently attacked by Gaffney and “Joe was doing what he had to do to protect himself.”
Stewart said the FOP respects the jury’s decision and continues to support Macchia and his family.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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