TRENTON, NJ (WPVI) — A Trenton police officer has been indicted by a grand jury after a man he pepper sprayed died in 2020.
Officer Nicholas Piotrowski was charged with one count of official misconduct but not with charges directly related to the death of Joseph Ahr Senior.
“This officer used pepper spray in a confrontation with a civilian in a manner that was unnecessary and contrary to his training, and mishandled a situation that could have ended so much differently,” said New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin.
Body camera footage released by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office on July 6, 2020 shows a porch conversation between Trenton police officers and Ahr, 64, the man who lived there at the 700 block of Monmouth Street.
Trenton Police say they received a call from Joseph Ahr’s son.
A civil lawsuit alleges that Ahr’s son’s call to 911 involved an altercation with his child’s mother.
Ahr can be seen on his porch for about 10 minutes talking to officers.
A fight began when Ahr appeared to try to return to his home.
“Hands off me!” Says Ahr in the video.
The police tried to handcuff Ahr and forced him to the ground.
Officer Nicholas Piotrowski put pepper spray in Ahr’s face at close range.
After being tied up and sitting upright, Ahr told police he had only one functioning lung and was struggling to breathe.
In the body-worn video, a woman can be heard saying, “Are you alright? Breathe, dad.”
After that incident, authorities said Ahr was taken to the Capital Health Regional Medical Center. He died 18 days later.
The coroner concluded the manner of death was homicide, with the cause of death listed as “acute respiratory failure following the use of pepper spray during the arrest of a person with chronic lung disease and COVID-19.”
Last year, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against all officers at the scene and the city of Trenton.
This week, the Attorney General announced that a grand jury indicted Piotrowski on official misconduct charges.
Robin Lord, attorney for the Ahr family, said in a statement: “On behalf of Joseph Ahr’s family, we are extremely frustrated that it has taken two years to get to this. We were disappointed that only one officer was charged. We hope this will be the beginning of some semblance of justice for the family.”
A lawyer representing Piotrowski says he plans to take action against the charges.
“Officer Piotrowski acted within the limits of his authority. And he acted rightly. I think the grand jury either misconstrued or received inadequate evidence,” said Stuart Alterman.
If convicted, Piotrowski faces up to ten years in prison.
His attorney says Piotrowski is still employed by the Trenton Police Department, but he was suspended on that charge.
Action News reached out to Trenton Police and the Mayor’s Office on Thursday, but has received no response.
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https://6abc.com/trenton-nj-officer-indicted-nicholas-piotrowski-joseph-ahr/12659821/ Joseph Ahr death: Trenton police officer indicted for pepper spraying man who later died