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SOUTH RIVER, NEW JERSEY–Two South River police officers have come forward with accusations against their supervisor alleging that he sexually harassed and assaulted them.
John Minacapelli and Joe Guiamano are veteran police officers employed by the South River police department and have both made similar claims stating that their supervisor, John McKenna, sexually abused them leading all the way back to 2012.
Minacapelli stated that the abuse started when he worked alongside McKenna in the motorcycle unit. “He would make comments about how good I looked in my motorcycle pants,” the officer said in a statement to NBC New York. “On one occasion he touched me and another he grabbed me … He grabbed me by my groin and I had to push him away.”
Minacapelli also mentioned in a statement to NBC New York that he’s experienced “a flood of emotions” since the incidents began. This resulted in Minacapelli keeping the abuse a secret until McKenna was moved to the detective bureau where Guiamano eventually suffered the same experiences as Minacapelli previously did.
“First it started with sexual harassment … He would imitate like he was masturbating in his pants. I would tell him you’re creeping me out,” Guiamano told NBC New York.
Then in June 2020, Guiamano said that he was sexually assaulted by McKenna. “He met me at the door. He grabbed my groin and squeezed it. I jumped back and said, ‘What the f- are you doing?’ And, he laughed.”
Minacapelli and Guiamano had reported the incidents to Chief Mark Tinitigan. However, Tinitigan failed to take any action in stopping or addressing McKenna’s alleged sexual harassment and abusive behavior toward both Guiamano and Minacapelli.
Tinitigan, according to the official court documents, also excused McKenna’s inappropriate behavior and was aware of McKenna’s behavior toward his subordinate officers. In an email chain between Minacapelli and Tinitigan, Tinitigan excused McKenna’s behavior by stating, “I know how [Lieutenant McKenna] is.”
After Minacapelli reported McKenna to Tinitigan, McKenna retaliated against him, denying Minacapelli certain motorcycle privileges. It was after Minacapelli requested that two other officers accompany him to Tinitigan’s office around June 2020 that Tinitigan decided to place McKenna on paid administrative leave.
However, McKenna was not charged with unlawful sexual contact or official misconduct. Minacapelli was informed that this could not happen as the statute of limitations for a disorderly persons charge had expired.
“They refused to charge on my behalf because they said the statute of limitations had passed. That fractured me,” he said in a statement to NBC New York. “I’m the victim of a sexual assault. And the statute of limitations had not passed on that.”
It was later learned that after Guiamano reported McKenna to Tinitigan that the Middlesex County Prosecutor Office was only charging McKenna with harassment for inappropriate touching. “But in my complaint, it said it was for grabbing my testicles and causing me pain, which is what happened,” Guiamano said in a statement to NBC New York.
However, the charges were dropped in Guiamano’s case after continuously being postponed. The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office told him in a text message that they did not have any obtainable evidence to convict McKenna for harassment.
Both officers decided to go on paid medical leave shortly after word spread in their department about their abuse allegations. Minacapelli has stated that he has experienced a “full-blown panic attack” at work, while Guiamano said he’s become ostracized by his colleagues.
On June 8, Minacapelli and Guiamano filed civil lawsuits against the South River Police Department, naming the chief and the lieutenant. Both the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and South River Mayor John M. Krenzel declined to comment.
In one of McKenna’s attorney’s reports given to Juan Fernandez, Minacapelli’s attorney, there was a complete denial that anything in the nature of the allegations by Minacapelli and Guiamano had happened.
When asked what Minacapelli and Guiamano are hoping to achieve with this lawsuit against the South River Police Department, Fernandez stated that they are trying to prevent another situation like this from happening again.
“I think that they are really trying to prevent this from happening to anyone else in the [future] or from it ever happening again,” Fernandez stated. “This was very difficult for them. It’s their way of getting of justice and, more importantly, they really [just] don’t want this happening in a police department ever again.”
Minacapelli told NBC New York that he has a theory as to why their case hasn’t been treated the same as other cases. “Men aren’t usually the victims. It’s female victims. And that’s why I believe we’ve been mistreated this whole time,” he said.
But both Minacapelli and Guiamano said that they wanted to get their stories out there in order to shatter stereotypes and the perceptions surrounding men in blue. McKenna is currently on paid administrative leave. Tinitigan, however, is currently active in his role as police chief at the South River Police Department.