KEARNY POLICE SHOOTING- PUBLIC STATEMENT
On June 13, 2015, a Kearny Police Department officer was involved in a non-fatal police shooting on Sellers Street in Kearny, New Jersey. In accordance with New Jersey Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2006-05, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office independently investigated the shooting. The investigation consisted of witness interviews, documentation of records, and the collection of forensic and video evidence. Among the witnesses interviewed were four (4) civilians present in the immediate vicinity of the incident.
All relevant, credible evidence gathered during the Prosecutor’s Office investigation was examined. Based on the undisputed facts reached during the investigation, and in accordance with New Jersey Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2006-05, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office has determined that the officer’s use of force was justified under the law. Therefore, in accordance with New Jersey Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2006-05, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office will not be presenting the matter to a Grand Jury. The following is a summary of events supported by the evidence gathered during the investigation.
On the evening of June 13, 2015, the Kearny Police Officer involved in the shooting (hereinafter, “Police Officer”) was on patrol in the area of Belleville Turnpike (State Route 7) and Sellers Street. The Police Officer was in full police uniform and onboard a marked patrol unit. At approximately 10:47 PM, the Police Officer observed a group of vehicles illegally racing on Sellers Street, a two lane, two-way street with no shoulder. The vehicles were racing northbound side by side in the direction of Belleville Turnpike. The Police Officer notified dispatch of his observations and turned onto Sellers Street in order effect motor vehicle stops on the racing vehicles.
The Police Officer activated his emergency lights and stopped two racing vehicles in the area of 4-24 Sellers Street. Each racing vehicle was boarded by a civilian. The Police Officer kept his emergency lights activated and exited his patrol car. A few seconds after the motor vehicle stop, a third vehicle approached the Police Officers location. The Police Officer used his flashlight to signal the third vehicle to stop. The third vehicle, which was boarded by two civilians, pulled over directly behind the two racing vehicles. Immediately upon observing the motor vehicle stops, a group of approximately thirty (30) vehicles located on the south end of Sellers Street began exiting the area.
As the Police Officer collected the drivers’ documentation, he observed a black Volkswagen Golf (hereinafter, “Golf”) approaching his location. The Golf had its headlights off and was travelling at a high rate of speed. In an effort to pull the Golf over, the Police Officer stepped out onto the middle of Sellers Street and waived his flashlight signaling the Golf to stop. The police unit’s emergency lights remained activated at this time, and the fully uniformed Police Officer was visible to the driver of the Golf. Nevertheless, the Golf continued driving at a high rate of speed towards the Police Officer. At the last moment, the Golf veered right and drove in between the Police Officer and one of the pulled over vehicles. The Golf continued to the end of Sellers Street and turned left (westbound) onto Belleville Turnpike.
The Police Officer was noticeably startled. He immediately advised dispatch of the Golf’s actions and reported its direction of travel. Approximately twenty (20) seconds later, the Police Officer observed a Honda Civic (hereinafter, “Honda”) driving directly towards him. The Honda was travelling at approximately 35-60 miles per hour. The Police Officer again waived his flashlight signaling the Honda to stop. The Honda initially slowed down, but quickly accelerated and continued heading straight towards the Police Officer at a high rate of speed. Fearing for his safety, the Police Officer unholstered his firearm and discharged one round as he spun out of the Honda’s path. Simultaneously, the Honda veered right at the last moment and drove in between the Police Officer and one of the pulled over vehicles. The Honda continued to the end of Sellers Street and turned left (westbound) onto Belleville Turnpike. The entire incident was witnessed by the four (4) civilians onboard the stopped vehicles.
The Police Officer immediately advised dispatch of the discharge and stated in his radio transmission that the Honda “went right at [him].” The Police Officer also advised dispatch of the Honda’s direction of travel. Additional police units were dispatched to the scene. The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office was also contacted and responded to the scene. The Police Officer was visibly shaken following the episode and remained at the scene awaiting responding units. Minutes after the discharge, the Honda was located and stopped on Belleville Turnpike. The Honda was boarded by two males. Neither male was struck. Subsequently, the identity of the individual onboard the Golf was also determined.
The independent investigation conducted by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office included a search of the scene for physical evidence. Surveillance footage displaying the incident was recovered from two separate locations in the area. Furthermore, all of the Kearny Police Department radio transmissions and phone calls related to this investigation were obtained and reviewed. Additionally, the investigation determined that a single projectile struck the driver side rear quarter panel of the Honda. A discharged projectile was recovered from inside the Honda’s cabin. A ballistics examination determined that the recovered projectile was fired from the officer’s gun and was the only round fired by the Police Officer. Finally, Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office detectives obtained sworn statements from each of the aforementioned civilian witnesses, as well as the individuals operating the Golf and the Honda. These statements corroborated the forensic and physical evidence, as well as radio transmissions and phone calls made and received by law enforcement as noted herein.
After a thorough review of all the evidence, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office has concluded that the Police Officer’s use of force was justified under the Attorney General’s Use of Force Policy and the applicable law. The undisputed facts show that the Honda drove directly at the Police Officer at approximately 35-60 MPH until the very last moment. Accordingly, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office determined that the Police Officer was in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury. Pursuant to the Attorney General’s Use of Force Policy and N.J.S. 2C:3-4, an officer is permitted to use deadly force when the officer reasonably believes such action is immediately necessary to protect the officer from imminent death or serious bodily harm. Furthermore, due to the Honda’s high rate of speed, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office concluded that the Police Officer reasonably believed he did not have sufficient time to safely move out of the Honda’s path. The undisputed facts show that, even with the Police Officer spinning away from the Honda’s path, he would have been struck had the driver not veered away at the last moment.
In accordance with all provisions of New Jersey Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2006-05, this matter was fully investigated and reviewed by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, independently of the Kearny Police Department. This matter has also been reviewed and the results approved by the New Jersey Department of Criminal Justice. The investigation was conducted after completion of a comprehensive conflict inquiry ensuring no actual or potential conflicts of interest by Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office personnel.