On August 20, 2014, at approximately 8:45 p.m., Victim #1, Victim #2 and Witness #1 observed a male, later identified as the defendant, Edgar Carrasquillo, 33, of Camden, standing next to a brown Honda parked near the corner of Chestnut Street and Broadway in Camden.
Victim #1 and Witness #1 observed Carrasquillo enter the Honda and proceeded to drive up Broadway and make a U-turn. According to Victim #1, the vehicle then accelerated in his direction, drove onto the sidewalk and then came back onto the street and struck him as he was standing next to his bicycle. Victim #1 fell to the ground, causing him injury. Victim #1 stated that the vehicle continued up the street toward the direction of Victim #2 who was riding his bicycle.
Victim #2 stated that he was riding his bicycle in the street when he looked over his shoulder he observed the vehicle barreling towards him. Victim #2 stated that he tried to get out of the way, however, the vehicle struck him. Victim #2 stated that the driver of the vehicle never tried to hit the brakes. Victim #2 described that after he was struck by the vehicle, he fell onto the windshield of the car and rolled off to the side of the vehicle.
Citizens flagged down Officer #1, a Camden County Police Department patrolman, and directed him to the area of the hit-and-run incidents. Officer #1 observed Victim #1 and Victim #2 lying in the street suffering from injuries. Emergency Medical Services were dispatched to transport both victims to Cooper University Hospital in Camden.
Officer #1 also discovered a New Jersey license plate bearing registration L63 DKL at the scene. Police broadcast the license plate number through dispatch. Subsequent radio transmissions obtained as part of the investigation revealed that the vehicle associated with New Jersey license plate L63 DKL was a brown 1992 Honda Civic. The registered owner’s address was also broadcast over police radio.
Based upon the radio broadcast, Officer #2 and Officer #3, both Camden County Police Department patrolmen, responded to the area of the registered owner’s residence. As the two officers were sitting in a marked patrol car, they observed the suspect vehicle driven by Carrasquillo traveling north on Harrison Street. Officer #2, who was driving, and Officer #3 positively identified the car as being the suspect vehicle as it accelerated passed them. The officers pulled behind the suspect vehicle and attempted to initiate a motor vehicle stop by utilizing the overhead lights and sirens. Carrasquillo continued to elude the officers by making abrupt turns. After a brief vehicle pursuit, Carrasquillo turned into the driveway at a residence on the 1100 block of North 35th Street in Camden and stopped midway up the driveway on the grass. The driveway has a chain link fence on both sides at its base and is located between two residences.
Officer #2 positioned his marked patrol car at the base of the driveway so as to prevent Carrasquillo from escaping. The officers exited their marked patrol car and proceeded to walk up the driveway because they believed that Carrasquillo would exit the vehicle and flee on foot. Officer #3 approached up the driveway from the right side and Officer #2 approached from the left side. When the officers were midway up the driveway, they both observed the suspect vehicle’s reverse lights turn on and heard the engine revving. Both officers observed Carrasquillo’s vehicle accelerate backwards towards them.
Officer #2 dove out of the way to avoid being struck by the suspect vehicle and his uniform became stuck in the bushes and a chain link fence. The suspect vehicle proceeded backwards, past him and struck their marked patrol car. Officer #2, who was able to free himself by ripping his pants, stated that he was fearful because he believed that Carrasquillo would drive forward and strike him head-on because the headlights were pointed directly at him.
Officer #2, who was standing along the driver’s side of the vehicle, then drew his firearm and pointed it at Carrasquillo. Officer #3 was standing by the passenger side window also drew his weapon. Both officers ordered Carrasquillo to turn off the vehicle and get out of the car. Both officers advised that Carrasquillo ignored his commands.
As the officers were ordering the suspect to stop, Carrasquillo continued to back up the driveway, turned to the right slightly and then put the car in reverse and again began to accelerate toward Officer #2. Officer #3 described the engine revving and the wheels spinning. Officer #2 was directly behind the vehicle – approximately 10 to 15 feet from the car’s rear bumper – when it began to drive in reverse in his direction. Officer #2 had no other avenue of retreat since behind him was a fence and a house. Officer #2 fired one shot at Carrasquillo’s vehicle because he was in fear for his life. When the vehicle did not stop, he fired an additional eight rounds. Carrasquillo was struck multiple times by bullets and the vehicle stopped. According to Officer #3, if the vehicle had continued in its reverse path, it would have struck Officer #2. Officer #3 stated that he did not fire his weapon because he did not have a clear backdrop at that point.
Following the shooting, Carrasquillo was transported to Cooper University Hospital for treatment.
Detectives examining the scene noted that two red pieces of the suspect vehicle’s tail light were stuck to the front side quarter panel of the officers’ patrol car. Also discovered inside of the wheel well of the front passenger side tire were more pieces of suspected tail light lens from the suspect’s vehicle. Additionally, detectives interviewed several independent witnesses to the incident.
Witness #2 and Witness #3, who were both familiar with Carrasquillo and were present on the 1100 block of North 35th Street, observed Carrasquillo’s vehicle strike a marked patrol car in his driveway. Witness #3 stated that he then observed the police officers with their firearms drawn ordering Carraquillo to freeze. Witness #3 observed the police officers run back down the driveway and then heard gunshots.
Additionally, Witness #4, who was also in the area of the 1100 block of North 35th Street, stated that she observed the white reverse lights of Carrasquillo’s vehicle illuminate. She stated that she then heard gunshots.
Carrasquillo was charged with four counts each of attempted murder and aggravated assault, two counts each of assault by auto and endangering an injured victim and one count each of resisting arrest/eluding and knowingly leaving the scene. His case is pending trial.
Based on the findings of the investigation, which includes the officers’ accounts, statements from two victims and four independent witnesses as well as physical evidence, Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo determined Officer #2 acted in self-defense and in accord with the Attorney General’s Use of Force Guidelines in using deadly force to prevent serious injury or death. No criminal charges will be filed against Officer #2 and the matter was not presented to a Grand Jury. 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.
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.