A veteran New Jersey police officer awarded earlier this year for saving people from a burning building has been arrested for allegedly killing a 23-year-old father in a hit-and-run when he was off-duty Tuesday, authorities say.
Jose Urena, a seven-year officer with the Paterson Police Department, was charged with leaving the scene of Tuesday's accident near North Fourth and Temple streets in the city.
Police say they got a call about the accident around 8:25 p.m. and found Jaquill Fields, of Paterson, in the street. He was taken to a hospital, where he later died of his injuries, authorities said.
Accident reconstruction crews and officials with the prosecutor's homicide unit investigated, and Urena was arrested. He has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the investigation.
Fields' family described him as a "great guy" who loved to laugh and adored his 2-year-old son. They said they want justice for his death, and that they hoped the officer wouldn't get special treatment because of his standing in the community.
"I just hope he gets no slack because he's an officer," said Fields' aunt, Kim Mottley. "He's still a human being."
"It hurts. And to know there was an off-duty officer and he couldn't even stop," she said.
Urena pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday and bail was set at $50,000. His attorney, Patrick Casserta, said he had no comment on the charges at this time.
Fields' brother Yason Fields attended the arraignment to face the man accused of leaving his brother to die on the sidewalk.
"I hope he rots in hell," he said. "He's going to pay for his actions."
In January, Urena received a life-saving award from the Paterson Police Department for saving several people from a burning building in the city last June.