CAMDEN COUNTY PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE CONCLUDES THAT USE OF FORCE WAS JUSTIFIED IN AUGUST 7, 2018 NON-FATAL POLICE SHOOTING IN CAMDEN CITY
The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office (“CCPO”) has completed its investigation into the August 7, 2018 use of force by a Detective of the Camden County Metro Police Department and has concluded that the use of force was legally justified. The CCPO determined that it is not necessary to present this matter to the Grand Jury because there were no material facts in dispute regarding the lawfulness of the use of force. The investigation was conducted in accordance with the Attorney General’s Independent Prosecutor Directive (July 28, 2015, Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive Regarding Uniform Statewide Procedures and Best Practices for Conducting Police Use of Force Investigations) (“Directive”). Pursuant to the Directive, the Attorney General’s Office conducted an independent review of the use of force and agreed with the CCPO’s determination that there were no material facts in dispute and that the use of force by the Detective in this case was justified. The Attorney General’s Office concurred with the CCPO’s conclusion to forego presentation of this matter to the Grand Jury.
The incident occurred on August 7, 2018, at Broadway and Walnut Street, in the City of Camden. While two Camden County Police detectives were stopped at a red light, a white minivan stopped just short of the intersection, despite having the green light. Two men exited the minivan and opened fire on the detectives’ undercover vehicle, firing at least twenty-one bullets and striking both of the detectives and their vehicle several times. One of the detectives was able to exit the vehicle, while shots continued hitting his car. The detective was able to return fire as the minivan sped toward and then past the undercover vehicle, fleeing the scene. There were no injuries reported as a result of the Detective’s firearm discharge.
Personnel from the CCPO responded and investigated. Statements were taken from the detectives and independent civilian witnesses. The witnesses were able to provide descriptions of the minivan, including its direction of travel, as well as the driver of the van and the two shooters who exited the van. Video footage was also obtained which provided further insight into the identity of the shooters and information about the white minivan, its direction of travel and the identities of the van’s occupants prior to the shooting. The van was soon located in the vicinity of 4th and Emerald Streets in Camden and appeared to have been struck by bullets.
Following the investigation, which included the review of witness statements, video footage and cellular telephone tracking, the CCPO indicted Ammar Hall, Alexander DeJesus and Juan Figueroa on November 8, 2018, on multiple counts of Attempted Murder, Aggravated Assault, Conspiracy, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon and Certain Person Not to Have a Firearm. Trial is set for April 29, 2019.
All persons charged with a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
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.
Applying the Directive to the undisputed material facts outlined above, the use of force by the Detective was justified pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4, Use of Force in Self-Protection. The statute states that “the use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.” The law defines a “reasonable belief” as one which would be held by a person of ordinary prudence and intelligence situated as the actor was.
The Detective and his partner were fired upon by two men who exited a van while the Detective and his partner were sitting at a red light. Fearing for his life and the life of his partner, the Detective discharged his duty weapon. The Detective stated that as the van took off he did not know if they were trying to come back at him or if they were going to stop. The Detective also did not know if the shooters would see that he and his partner were still alive and continue to shoot at them. In addition, the Detective was unable to see inside of the van because the windows were rolled up and tinted. Accordingly, the Detective believed that discharging his weapon was necessary to protect his life and that of his partner, who was still inside their bullet-ridden vehicle. His statement was consistent with those of other witnesses and with the physical evidence. An independent analysis of the undisputed material facts by the Attorney General’s Office led to the determination that the Detective’s beliefs were reasonable, and the use of force in this matter was justified pursuant to all applicable laws and the Attorney General Guidelines. This statement was prepared and disseminated to the public in accordance with §8 of the Directive.
Released Wednesday, March 20, 2019.