Hudson County Prosecutor determines Kearny Police Officer justified in September 2016 shooting at Ke
KEARNY POLICE SHOOTING – PUBLIC STATEMENT OF HUDSON COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE
On September 16, 2016, a Kearny Police Department Officer was involved in a non-fatal police shooting in the Walmart parking lot located at 150 Harrison Avenue in Kearny, New Jersey. In Accordance with New Jersey Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2006-05 and the July 28, 2015 Attorney General Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive Regarding Uniform Statewide Procedures and Best Practices for Conducting Police Use of Force Investigations (collectively “Attorney General’s Directive” or the “Directive”) this matter was fully investigated and reviewed by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (“HCPO”), independently of the Kearny Police Department. The investigation was conducted after completion of a comprehensive conflict inquiry which ensured that there were no actual or potential conflicts of interest by the HCPO Office personnel. The investigation consisted of witness statements, video evidence, and the collection of physical evidence recovered at the scene.
All relevant and credible evidence gathered during the investigation was examined. Based on the undisputed facts reached during the investigation, the HCPO has determined that there are no material facts in dispute and the Officer’s use of force was justified under the law. Therefore, the HCPO 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.
In the morning hours of September 16, 2016, the Kearny Police Officer involved in the shooting (hereinafter, “Police Officer”) was on patrol in full uniform and onboard a marked patrol unit. At approximately 8:21 AM the Police Officer was dispatched to the Kearny Walmart on a call of a shoplifter engaged with Walmart’s security staff. The Police Officer was the first officer to arrive at the location.
Shortly before the Police Officer’s arrival to the scene the actor ran out of the Walmart and boarded a silver 2012 Honda Accord (“Honda”). As the Police Officer entered the parking lot, the Walmart asset protection manager pointed the Officer to the parked Honda. The Police Officer stopped his patrol unit near the parked Honda and exited his vehicle. The Police Officer walked towards the Honda’s driver door while repeatedly ordering the driver out of the vehicle. The Police Officer also unholstered his firearm in a display of constructive authority. As the Police Officer approached, the Honda reversed out of its spot and struck the vehicle parked directly behind it. At this point the Police Officer was positioned in a small area between the front of his patrol unit and the Honda’s driver side front corner. The Honda then accelerated forward and the Police Officer began discharging his firearm. The Police Officer fired three shots. As the Police Officer fired, the Honda turned away from the Police Officer. The Police Officer ceased firing, and the Honda continued out of the Walmart parking lot. The Police Officer was visibly shaken following the episode and remained at the scene.
The Police Officer immediately advised dispatch of the discharge and broadcasted a description of the Honda. Multiple Kearny Police Department Units subsequently arrived at the scene. Additionally, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (“HCPO”) was contacted and responded to the scene in addition to the HCPO Shooting Response Team. Five civilian eye witnesses to the event were identified and remained at the scene.
The HCPO responded to the scene and conducted an independent investigation into the entire incident. The investigation included individually interviewing all five civilian witnesses and canvassing the scene for physical evidence. During the canvass three .40 caliber shell casings were recovered near the vicinity of the Police Officer’s patrol unit. Additionally, HCPO took possession of the Police Officer’s duty weapon and magazine. Photographs were secured of the spent shell casings and of the scene. HCPO investigators also obtained video surveillance from the Walmart displaying the parking lot and the complete interaction between the Police Officer and the Honda. Furthermore, all of the Kearny Police Department radio transmissions and phone calls related to this investigation were obtained and reviewed. The sworn statements given by the civilian witnesses corroborated the physical evidence, as well as the surveillance video and radio transmissions made and received by law enforcement.
Later that morning the actor and the Honda were recovered. The actor, identified as Ramon Martinez, of Newark had open wounds to his left arm and right shoulder. On September 19, 2016 a search was conducted of the Honda by HCPO investigators. Three projectile defects were observed on the Honda; one defect to the front windshield and two additional defects to the driver’s door. Trajectory rods were utilized to estimate the Police Officer’s placement in relation to the Honda at the time of the discharge. This evidence corroborates the fact the Police Officer was standing near the front of the Honda when he discharged his weapon. A ballistics examination determined that the spent shell casings were fired by the Police Officer’s weapon.
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 Police Officer attempted to lawfully stop the vehicle. The Police Officer gave multiple verbal commands to get out of the Honda. The Police Officer was in full uniform, next to a marked unit clearly displaying his legal authority. The Honda reversed, recklessly striking the vehicle behind it before it drove at the Police Officer. Accordingly, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office determined that the Police Officer’s fear of death or serious bodily injury was reasonable. 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 small area between two cars with no clear avenue of escape, 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 and there was no reasonable way for the Police Officer to determine whether the Honda would turn towards him or away from him.
The results of this investigation and the legal conclusions reached were reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General’s Office agreed with the HCPO’s conclusion that the use of deadly force was legally justified and that there are no material facts in dispute that require presentation of this matter to the Grand Jury.