The Division of Criminal Justice has reviewed the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office’s investigation and agreed with the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office’s conclusion that the use of deadly force was legally justified in a 2014 non-fatal police-involved shooting in Camden. Furthermore, the Division of Criminal Justice agreed with the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office’s determination that the case forgo a Grand Jury presentation because no material facts were in dispute.
In accordance with Section 8 of the Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive Amending Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive No. 2006-5 (July 28, 2015), concerning Public Statements on Results of Investigation Not Resulting in Prosecution, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office is releasing the following statement.
On April 25, 2014, Camden County Police dispatch received a 911 call at approximately 9:35 p.m. from a female who lived in the area of the Harmony House Apartments (previously known as the Sycamore Court Apartments) in Camden regarding a man with a gun. The caller described him as a black male wearing all black clothing in possession of a gun standing in front of the nearby Chestnut Court Apartments. Several Camden County Police officers heard the call and responded to the scene.
When Officer #1 arrived on the scene, he observed a male fitting the description, later identified as Mr. James Dickerson, 28, of Camden, running directly towards him. Officer #1 attempted to stop Mr. Dickerson by placing his hand on Mr. Dickerson’s chest and ordering him to stop. Mr. Dickerson then swung at Officer #1 and pushed him out of the way. Officer #1 then observed Mr. Dickerson reach for his waistband, remove a handgun and fire two shots in his direction. Officer #1 took cover behind a vehicle and fired one shot in return. He then began to pursue Mr. Dickerson on foot. As Mr. Dickerson ran through the courtyard, Officer #1 observed the suspect fire several more times in his direction. Officer #1 took cover behind the wall of the D building and fired one more shot at Mr. Dickerson. Officer #2, Officer #3, and Officer #4 arrived on the scene shortly after Officer #1 and heard the shots fired between him and Mr. Dickerson.
Officer #2 observed Mr. Dickerson running with a gun in his right hand and pointing a gun back in his direction. When Officer #2 believed he had a clear and safe shot, he fired his weapon a total of 16 times while ordering Mr. Dickerson to stop and drop the gun. However, the suspect refused to do so.
After hearing the initial shots fired, Officer #3 unholstered his weapon and took cover by the building. He observed Mr. Dickerson running in front of the D building while firing a gun. Officer #3 fired one shot when he believed it was clear and safe to do so.
Officer #4 also heard the gunfire coming from the area of the D building as he entered the courtyard. He then drew his weapon and proceeded to the building. Officer #4 observed Mr. Dickerson come into his view with a gun pointed in his direction, and then observed Officer #2 begin shooting. Officer #4 fired his weapon two times.
Meanwhile, Sergeant #1 was in charge of the Patrol Division at the time and he responded to the 911 call. As he entered the area of 7th and Sycamore Streets he heard several shots fired. He observed Officer #1 discharge his weapon and take cover. He also observed Officer #2 engaging with Mr. Dickerson and ordering him to drop his weapon.
During the exchange of gunfire, Mr. Dickerson was struck by a bullet in the leg and fell to the ground with the gun still in his hand. Officers ordered Mr. Dickerson to release the weapon and he complied, putting his hands on his head. Officers handcuffed Mr. Dickerson and secured his gun. Mr. Dickerson was transported to Cooper Hospital University Medical Center for treatment of a single gunshot wound to his left femur.
A witness to the shooting later told detectives that he was walking towards his apartment in the D building when he saw a man and police exchanging gunfire. That witness specified Mr. Dickerson had fired the first shots. Several other residents indicated they heard numerous shots fired, but did not witness the shooting.
Video surveillance footage obtained from the scene showed the initial confrontation between Officer #1 and Mr. Dickerson, as well as Mr. Dickerson running into the courtyard from the Sycamore Street side between buildings A and D. The video shows Mr. Dickerson firing a gun behind his back while running. The video also shows the officers returning fire.
Mr. Dickerson’s weapon, identified as a Beretta Model 96G 40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, was sent to the New Jersey State Police Ballistics Lab, which confirmed he had fired six shots during the incident. Further investigation would reveal that this same weapon had been previously reported stolen out of Deptford Township.
Based on the officers’ accounts, which are corroborated by an independent witness, video surveillance footage and physical evidence, Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo determined the use of deadly force was legally justified. All evidence indicates that the use of deadly force by all four officers was clearly necessary and reasonable for the officers to protect themselves, each other, and all the civilians in the apartment complex from imminent death or serious bodily injury. These officers were confronted by an armed male who fired his weapon multiple times at police officers in a residential area. Mr. Dickerson ignored repeated commands to drop his weapon and continued to wield the gun even after collapsing with a gunshot wound to his leg.
No criminal charges were filed against the officers and the matter was not presented to a Grand Jury. As previously stated, the Division of Criminal Justice reviewed the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office’s investigation and agreed with the conclusion that the use of deadly force was legally justified. Furthermore, the Division of Criminal Justice agreed with the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office’s determination that the case forgo a Grand Jury presentation because no material facts were in dispute.
Mr. Dickerson was charged with four counts of attempted murder, twelve counts of aggravated assault and one count each of unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and certain persons not to have weapons, receiving stolen property and obstructing administration of law of other government function. The case against him is pending trial.
During the course of this investigation, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office complied with all portions of the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive regarding uniform statewide procedures and best practices for conducting police use-of-force investigations.
Released Thursday, March 3, 2016.