By Kevin Canessa
KEARNY — Having had the honor of sitting down with Kearny police Capts. Scott Macfie and Tim Wagner a little more than a week ago to discuss the circumstances surrounding the horrifying death of 14-year-old Angel Gonzalez, I thought this might be a good opportunity to share a few observations outside the facts and figures of boy’s untimely passing.
There were a few things that were truly shocking — and perhaps even beyond human reasoning.
First, the notion that Gonzalez was found dead a day before he was even reported missing, by his parents, to the Kearny Police Department.
The actual report wasn’t shocking. The idea that KPD shared the details of Angel’s disappearance with all police departments in the state of New Jersey is, however. But the report itself isn’t the shocking part. It’s that despite the report being sent around the state the day after Angel was found, no one — not a single soul — at the Newark Police Department was able to put 1 and 1 together to discover Angel’s identity … for more than a week.
I don’t know how the NPD operates. I’m not sure knowing would make a difference anyway. But here’s the bottom line in my mind.
When Angel was found, lifeless, outside Penn Station on Oct. 8, he was declared dead not too long after at a hospital. No one in the NPD thought, the day after, when the bulletin was sent across the state (by email), that the boy who was found a day earlier without identification could have been Angel.
Reportedly, when these kinds of alerts go out, they’re shown at roll call to cops on duty. At no point did anyone consider checking to see if the boy, found dead a day earlier, was the same clearly identified, via photo and description, boy who was in a morgue as a John Doe.
It is obvious that often, the NPD has a lot of major crimes to deal with. We get their press releases on a daily basis here at The Observer, and quite frankly, no police department should have to deal with the volume of calls and crimes they do. I’ve given up on keeping a count of the homicides, some of which are in broad daylight.
But having a large workload is not an excuse here.
Numerous members of the KPD — some on their own (unpaid) time — spent hours crawling the streets of Kearny and Newark, with the hopes of finding Angel alive. We were told by the KPD that some of the Kearny guys actually met up with Newark officers and rode around there in NPD radio cars, searching high and dry for Angel.
While all of this was happening — and while there was hope Angel could still be found alive — he was in a morgue, unidentified, waiting to be claimed by his parents.
The KPD worked diligently to find Angel Gonzalez. They were often frustrated by the investigation and the inability to find him based on the reality that some of his so-called “friends” weren’t forthcoming. Perhaps they were scared. Perhaps they were just teenagers being teenagers. But this disgrace could have been avoided if someone across the Passaic River — just one person — didn’t drop the ball.
We can only hope something like this never happens again.
Making matters more maddening
We were also told, by an extremely reliable source with knowledge of the case, but who asked not to be identified, that prior to Angel being found lifeless, four other unidentified males had been with him, likely smoking synthetic marijuana. Or, as it’s commonly called, K-2.
The four other people — and Angel — were seen on a video provided to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, collapsing to the ground, one-by-one. The other four, also one-by-one, got up from their drug-induced stupors. All of them ultimately ran away. One even checked Angel’s pulse as he lay motionless outside a hotel near Newark Penn Station.
Yet not one called 911. Aside from the pulse-checker, not one did anything to determine whether Angel was OK. Instead, they all ran away, like the cowards that they are.
What’s maddening about all of this is that we’ll never know whether they could have helped him. Had one of them called police, could he have survived? What’s even worse — if any or all of the four are identified, chances are very strong they won’t be charged with any crime, because in this state, and far too many states in the country, there are no Good Samaritan laws that would require a human being to seek help for another human being in desperate need.
I hope it’s not just me, but I can’t comprehend this properly.
I was taught, at a very young age, that when you see someone in distress, you do something, you say something … you don’t just stand there uselessly … and you certainly don’t just run away. Don’t we so often hear, including on the very pages of this newspaper, that if you see something suspicious, like an unattended bag, you say something? Shouldn’t that very same credo apply to a human being?
Something’s got to change here. That these four will never be held accountable for not helping their friend is disgusting. But they’ll have to live with themselves forever, knowing they didn’t help their dying friend.
And we can only hope these four are just the exception to the norm. Because if they’re not the exception, our world is truly a mess.
Then again, it already is, isn’t it?
Rest in peace, young Angel.
Rest in peace.
Odds & ends
- If you ever have to drive past the intersection of Forest St. and Seeley Ave., you really should do so with extreme — and I mean extreme — caution. That may very well be the most bizarre, and most dangerous, intersection in Kearny. Not sure what I mean? Pass by one of these days. Do it slowly — and make sure you’re buckled up. If it doesn’t jive after the first visit, it may never jive.
- Great job, as usual, by Kearny UEZ Director John Peneda, putting together the most recent PAWRade this past weekend (Saturday, Oct. 28.) That’s one event that truly has become a Kearny staple — and that often draws many people from out of the area.
That’s all for now. Enjoy the rest of the week. See you back here in three weeks!