Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo has determined that the use of deadly force was legally justified in a shooting that involved Camden County Police Department officers who returned fire when shot upon at the scene of a domestic violence call. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, 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. As a result, no criminal charges will be filed against the officers.
Freddy Baez, 24, of Camden, NJ was shot by Camden County Police Department Officers who responded to a 9-1-1 call in the 3200 building on Rutledge Walk in the Independence Village Apartment Complex, Camden, NJ on the evening of November 24, 2015. Mr. Baez later succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at a local hospital.
At approximately 7:00 p.m., Witness #1 called 9-1-1 and asked the dispatcher to send police to her residence. When asked the nature of the problem, Witness #1 stated that Mr. Baez, who was known to her, is banging on her door and will not leave. The dispatcher asked if weapons were involved and Witness #1 stated that she was not sure.
Minutes later, Witness #1 called 9-1-1 again to tell the dispatcher that Mr. Baez is still banging on her door, she could not see the police officers and is not sure if Mr. Baez has a gun. She continued by saying that Mr. Baez assaulted a family member, Witness #2, earlier that day. Domestic disputes were common between Mr. Baez and Witness #2. Witness #1 watched for the officers from a second floor apartment window overlooking Independence Road.
In response to the 9-1-1 call, two Camden County Police Department Officers arrived at the apartment complex. As they approached, an unidentified male called to them and gestured with his arm to indicate that Mr. Baez was around the corner of the building.
As the officers approached, they were alerted by the dispatcher that Mr. Baez may have a gun. The officers drew their firearms and proceeded to the corner of the building. Officer #1 saw Mr. Baez on the landing at the top of the steps in front of the caller’s apartment. Mr. Baez was in the kneeling position partially concealed by a metal storm door. Mr. Baez was between the storm door and the front door to the apartment. The officers saw Mr. Baez leaning forward with his head on the apartment door as he continued to bang on the door.
When the officers turned the corner of the building, they were approximately ten feet away from Mr. Baez. Officer #1 illuminated Mr. Baez with a flashlight and ordered him to put his hands up. Mr. Baez did not comply, but instead, raised his gun and fired one shot at the officers. The officers stood approximately four feet from each other as they saw the muzzle flash and moved to find cover as they returned fire. Officer #1 described the bullet making a whistling sound as it went past his left ear. The bullet was later recovered from across the courtyard.
Mr. Baez was struck by return fire from the officers. Mr. Baez’ small caliber, silver handgun was found on the ground in front of the porch where he fell.
Based on the findings of the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office investigation, which includes the officers’ accounts, statements from independent witnesses as well as the physical evidence, Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colallilo determined that the officers acted in accordance with the Attorney General’s Use of Force Guidelines in using deadly force to prevent serious injury or death.
During the course of the 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, January 26, 2017