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West New York hires new police officers

Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez first floated the plan in 2019 during his election campaign

Members of the West New York Police Department were sworn in on Feb. 20.

The township of West New York is expanding its police force, following last year’s pre-election plans by Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez to hire more officers.

The West New York Board of Commissioners and Mayor Rodriguez held a ceremony at the Feb. 19 commissioners meeting for the swearing in of the new officers.

This expansion included the hiring of five new officers as well as the promotion of eight members to higher ranks.

The promotions elevated two members of the West New York Police Department to the rank of captain, three members to the rank of lieutenant, and three members to sergeant.

“We are really proud of the accomplishments and exhibited leadership capabilities of the promoted officers,” Rodriguez said. “As these officers transition into their new roles, they will continue to display the utmost pride and honor while serving and protecting the residents of West New York.”

According to a press release from the the town of West New York, Monica Ramos and Frank Steffe were promoted to the rank of captain. The three members promoted to lieutenant were Juan Nunez, Denny Acosta, and Andres Rana. The three new sergeants include Carlos Henriquez, Menwer Mnawer, and Robert Leon.

“We are eager to see how the new officers integrate into the department and are mentored by the great men and women of the West New York Police Department,” Rodriguez said.

The new officers are Jonathan Baron, George Rizo, David Romano, Brandon Castillo, and Michael Mendez.

Rodriguez announced his intention to hire ten new police officers in March of 2019, in the heat of his mayoral campaign against incumbent Mayor Felix Roque.

At the time, Rodriguez said that the new additions to the West New York Police Department would not create any additional costs to taxpayers.

While only five new police officers were hired so far out of the planned ten officers, the need for more cops on the streets seems to be increasing in West New York.

A West New York man is now facing murder charges after initially being accused of aggravated assault and sexual assault. These charges mark the first homicide in West New York since 2018.

First homicide since 2018

According to Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez, a Hudson County Grand Jury returned an indictment of Edwin Velasco-Salazar on Jan. 29. He is charged on four counts related to the Nov. 1, 2019 death and alleged sexual assault of Irma Contreras Flores in West New York.

The upgrade in charges came on Jan. 30, after the Regional Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the female victim was allegedly strangled.

Prosecutor Suarez said the Regional Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death to be compression of the neck and the manner of death to be homicide.

The indictment charges Velasco-Salazar with first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder, second-degree sexual assault, and endangering an injured victim.

On Nov. 1, 2019, members of the West New York Police Department responded to 214 63rd Street in West New York on reports of an unconscious woman. Upon arrival at approximately 3:40 a.m, West New York Police Officers discovered an unresponsive female in the outside hallway area at that location.

The female at the scene was identified as Irma Contreras Flores, 32, of West New York. She was transported by Emergency Medical Services to Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen. Flores succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead at approximately 4:20 a.m.

On Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, following the preliminary investigation, members of the Prosecutor’s Office arrested Velasco-Salazar.

He was initially charged with aggravated assault, sexual assault, and endangering an injured victim.

Prosecutor Suarez credited the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Unit with the investigation and the West New York Police Department for assisting in the investigation.

Velasco-Salazar is expected to be arraigned on the indictment at a date to be determined. The charges are merely accusations, and Velasco-Salazar is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Prior to the death of Irma Contreras Flores, the last homicide in West New York took place on Dec. 23, 2018.

Shooting death

A 19-year-old man from Union City was shot in the neck near 61st Street and Park Avenue in West New York. According to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, Stephen Flores was identified as the victim. Flores was rushed to Jersey City Medical Center for treatment. He succumbed to his injuries and died at the hospital.

On Jan. 4, 2019, an 18-year old West New York man was arrested and charged with the murder of Stephen Flores.

The accused man was 17 at the time of the murder, according to the Prosecutor’s Office. He was charged as a juvenile, and his identity was not released.

The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office said the unnamed man was charged with murder, possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a firearm, and aggravated assault.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.