CAMDEN COUNTY PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE CONCLUDES THAT USE OF FORCE WAS JUSTIFIED IN DECEMBER 3, 2017 NON-FATAL POLICE-INVOLVED SHOOTING IN CAMDEN CITY
The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office (“CCPO”) has completed its investigation into the December 3, 2017 use of force by four officers 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 officers 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 December 3, 2017, in the vicinity of Louis and Chestnut Streets in Camden. Three Camden County Metro Police Officers were in the area investigating another matter when they heard gunfire at approximately 3:37 in the morning. The officers immediately responded to the scene and saw Shlawrence Ross, age 38, of Camden, standing in the street, while others were fleeing the area, As the three officers approached him, Mr. Ross shot at them. One of the officers had to jump out of the way to avoid being struck. The officers then returned fire, as they pursued Mr. Ross onto Sycamore Street, where a fourth Camden County Metro Officer arrived at the scene. During the pursuit, Mr. Ross failed to follow the repeated commands from police as heard on the officers’ body-worn cameras and by independent witnesses. Eventually, Mr. Ross was able to be placed into handcuffs, and while no weapon was found on his person, a 32-caliber gun was located on the ground where he turned the corner, while being chased by the officers.
Mr. Ross was transported to a local hospital where he underwent surgery for two gunshot wounds. No officer was physically harmed during this encounter and Mr. Ross survived his injuries.
Personnel from the CCPO responded and investigated. Statements were taken from independent civilian witnesses, who were able to provide descriptions of the shooter, his direction of travel and his conduct on the night of December 3, 2017. Video footage was also obtained which provided further insight into the identity of Mr. Ross and the shooting. During the investigation, detectives learned the initial gunfire the officers heard, which drew them to respond to Louis Street, was Mr. Ross discharging a gun in a speakeasy located on Louis Street. The shell casings recovered by the Crime Scene Unit in the speakeasy and from the sidewalk, as well as a bullet specimen recovered from one of the officer’s patrol vehicles, were all discharged from the same 32-caliber gun found on the scene, according to ballistics testing results.
Following the investigation which included the officers’ accounts, statements from independent witnesses, video footage, officers’ body-worn camera video and ballistics testing, the CCPO charged Shlawrence Ross with multiple counts of Attempted Murder, Aggravated Assault, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon and Certain Person Not to Have a Firearm. Mr. Ross’s charges are currently pending in Camden County Superior Court.
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 outline above, the use of force by the officers in this case 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 officers were in fear for their lives, the lives of their fellow officers and those of the people in the area that night when they discharged their duty weapons on December 3, 2017. Mr. Ross continued to shoot at police as he was fleeing, thus remaining an ongoing threat to his surroundings. Accordingly, the officers believed that discharging their weapons was necessary for the protection of their own lives, as well of those of their fellow officers and any other bystanders in the residential area. The officers’ statements were consistent with those of other witnesses and with the physical evidence. An independent analysis of the undisputed material facts led to the determination that the officers’ 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 58 of the Directive.
Released Monday, March 18, 2019.