Christopher Onesti, Former NJ Cop, Gets Disability Pension Because He Couldn’t Hold Gun, But Caught Shooting

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
December 12, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015

Christopher Onesti, a former New Jersey Transit officer, is getting a disability pension because he stapled the ring finder of his non-shooting hand.

State officials ruled that he is “totally and permanently disabled,” and no longer able to be a police  officer because of the disability.

But an investigation by New Jersey Watchdog found that Onesti, who receives nearly $46,000 a year, frequently goes to the shooting range and even posts photos of his times there on Facebook.

Onesti, who retired at the age of 29, collects nearly $46,000 a year in tax-free pension checks.

The pension system is riddled with holes, says one advocate. 

“There are huge loopholes that are costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars,” said John Sierchio, a PFRS trustee and reform advocate. “Why the legislature doesn’t do anything about it, God only knows.” 

Onesti, confronted by News4, which partnered with the watchdog, agreed. “It absolutely looks ridiculous,” he said. “On the face of it, it looks absolutely absurd.”

The accident that got Onesti an early retirement came after he accidentally fired a staple into his non-shooting hand while getting ready to attack a paper target to some cardboard.

The injury would “significantly impede his ability to fire a weapon, apprehend suspects, etc.,” wrote one doctor who signed Onesti’s disability application, according to News4.

“Can no longer pull a gun, restrain a suspect, do crowd control [or] use handcuffs,” another doctor wrote.

Onesti said the injury wasn’t serious but that he should be getting the disability payments because NJ Transit refused to move him from active patrol to a less physically demanding job.

“It’s an all or nothing system, which doesn’t make sense. There are no shades of gray. You are either 100 percent capable of being a patrol officer or you aren’t,” Onesti said.

A NJ Transit spokeswoman declined to comment.



Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.