Two police officers in New Jersey have admitted to vandalizing two vehicles belonging to a victim who filed a complaint against them.
Suspended Asbury Park officers Stephen Martinsen, 31, and former Special Law Enforcement Officer Thomas Dowling, 27, said they slashed the tires of two vehicles in the early morning hours of Sept. 3, 2019, because the cars' owner filed a complaint against them with the Asbury Park Police Department, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. They also smashed a window of one of the vehicles, causing over $500 in total damage.
The two pleaded guilty Tuesday to Criminal Mischief, prosecutors said.
Resident Ernest Mignoli, 70, who describes himself as a “freelance journalist” who videotapes and photographs police activity, had filed an administrative complaint against both officers several days before the vandalism. He told NJ Advance Media that his “jaw dropped” when he learned police officers were accused of the damage to his Jeep Liberty and Toyota Prius in Ocean Grove and Asbury Park.
“I just wouldn’t think it would be in the scope of police officers to do something like that,” Mignoli said. “I’m a concerned citizen, outspoken critic of Asbury Park Police Department. But this goes behind the pale.”
Martinsen was suspended without pay since the incident and Dowling was fired when charges were filed. As part of the plea deal, the two will not be able to hold any public employment in the State of New Jersey in the future, according to prosecutors.
Their sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 16, 2020.