June 8, 2020
AG’S OFFICE RELEASES AUDIO AND VIDEO RECORDINGS RELATED TO FATAL OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING ON GARDEN STATE PARKWAY ON MAY 23
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The Attorney General’s Office today released audio and video recordings related to the shooting on May 23, 2020 on the Garden State Parkway in Bass River, N.J., in which a New Jersey State Trooper fatally shot Maurice Gordon, 28, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The Attorney General’s Office today also released the identity of the State Trooper who shot and killed Mr. Gordon. He is Sgt. Randall Wetzel of Troop “D” of the New Jersey State Police. The shooting remains under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. However, the audio and video recordings are being released pursuant to Attorney General Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive,” which governs use-of-force investigations in New Jersey and requires that such records, if requested, be released to the public once the initial phase of the investigation is substantially complete, generally within 20 days. The recordings depict five episodes involving Mr. Gordon over an approximately 30-hour period: a 911 call placed by one of Mr. Gordon’s friends on the morning of May 22, 2020, followed by interactions between Mr. Gordon and law enforcement officers in Brick, Waretown, Stafford, and Bass River, New Jersey, on the morning of May 23, 2020. The recordings are contained in 12 files, which have been posted online. Click here for files. To facilitate their review, the file names are numbered and described briefly below. 911 Call
- Recording 01: “911 Call – Dutchess County (redacted).” At approximately 3:23 a.m. on May 22, 2020, Mr. Gordon’s friend called 911 from Poughkeepsie, New York to express concerns about Mr. Gordon’s wellbeing and whereabouts. Towards the end of the recording, the 911 operator transferred Mr. Gordon’s friend to the Poughkeepsie Police Department. (NOTE: Personal information regarding the caller and Mr. Gordon has been redacted; an unredacted version of the recording will be provided to Mr. Gordon’s family.)
- Recording 02: “911 Call – Poughkeepsie (redacted).” This audio recording is a continuation of Recording 1, picking up once Mr. Gordon’s friend was connected to the Poughkeepsie Police Department. (NOTE: Personal information regarding the caller and Mr. Gordon has been redacted; an unredacted version of the recording will be provided to Mr. Gordon’s family.)
Interaction in Brick, NJ
- Recording 03: “Red Bank MVR.” At approximately 3:13 a.m. on May 23, 2020, an off-duty Red Bank Police Officer driving a police vehicle pulled up near Mr. Gordon’s car, which had run out of gas and was stopped in the middle lane of the southbound Garden State Parkway near Exit 91 in Brick, N.J. The interaction was recorded by the mobile video recorder (MVR) attached to the dashboard of the Red Bank patrol vehicle, as depicted in Recording 3. The Red Bank officer called a tow truck. (NOTE: A short time later, an off-duty State Trooper driving to work in his personal car pulled over to assist Mr. Gordon and the Red Bank officer. The off-duty State Trooper provided assistance and then departed. Because the State Trooper was in his personal vehicle, there is no MVR footage of this encounter.)
- Recording 04: “Stop 1 MVR – Pt. A.” A short time after the off-duty Trooper departed the scene, a second, on-duty State Trooper pulled up to assist Mr. Gordon and the Red Bank officer. Because this second State Trooper was in his patrol vehicle, the encounter was captured by his vehicle’s MVR, as depicted in Recording 4. That second State Trooper set out flares and departed.
- Recording 05: “Stop 1 MVR – Pt. B.” The second State Trooper later returned to the scene where Mr. Gordon was stopped with the tow truck driver on the southbound Garden State Parkway in Brick. Recording 5 is MVR footage captured by the State Trooper’s patrol vehicle during this encounter.
Interaction in Waretown, NJ(Includes Visit to Wawa in Barnegat, NJ)
- Recording 06: “Stop 2 MVR.” At approximately 4:54 a.m. on May 23, 2020, a different State Trooper pulled up behind Mr. Gordon’s car, which was stopped in the left lane of the southbound Garden State Parkway near Exit 72 in Waretown, New Jersey. The Trooper called a tow truck, set out flares, and then departed.
- Recording 07: “Wawa (redacted).” After the State Trooper departed but before the tow truck arrived, a civilian vehicle pulled alongside Mr. Gordon’s car and the occupants offered Mr. Gordon a ride to a nearby Wawa convenience store to get gas. A surveillance camera inside the Wawa (in Barnegat, New Jersey) captured Mr. Gordon and others entering the store at approximately 5:33 a.m. Afterwards, Mr. Gordon returned to his vehicle and continued driving southbound on the Garden State Parkway. Customer and employee faces are blurred. Screen shots where Mr. Gordon does not appear are blurred.
Interaction in Stafford, New Jersey
- Recording 08: “Stop 3 MVR.” At approximately 6:13 a.m., a State Trooper stopped Mr. Gordon for speeding on the southbound Garden State Parkway near Exit 62 in Stafford, New Jersey. The Trooper issued a ticket to Mr. Gordon, who had allegedly been driving 101 miles per hour.
Interaction in Bass River, New Jersey
- Recording 09: “Stop 4 MVR – Pt. A.” At approximately 6:26 a.m., Sgt. Wetzel stopped Mr. Gordon for speeding on the southbound Garden State Parkway near Exit 50 in Bass River, New Jersey. Sgt. Wetzel started to write a ticket for Mr. Gordon, who had allegedly been driving 110 miles per hour. During the stop, Mr. Gordon’s vehicle became disabled in the left shoulder and Sgt. Wetzel called a tow truck. While they waited for the tow truck to arrive, Sgt. Wetzel asked Mr. Gordon if he would prefer to sit in the back seat of Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle, and Mr. Gordon stated that he would. (NOTE: The beginning of the recording depicts footage from Sgt. Wetzel’s forward-facing MVR camera, which shows Mr. Gordon’s car stopped on the southbound Parkway. Once Mr. Gordon enters the back seat of Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle, the car’s backward-facing MVR camera becomes the primary camera view. A diagram depicting the approximate location of the two vehicles is included with the materials posted as part of this release.)
- Recording 10: “Stop 4 MVR – Pt. B (redacted).” Recording 10 is a continuation of the MVR footage captured by Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle, as described in Recording 9. After a total of approximately 21 minutes inside Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle, Mr. Gordon exited the vehicle when Sgt. Wetzel attempted to offer him a mask, resulting in a confrontation with Sgt. Wetzel. During this confrontation, Mr. Gordon attempted to enter the driver seat of Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle on two occasions. After the first occasion, Sgt. Wetzel deployed oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray. After the second occasion, Sgt. Wetzel removed Mr. Gordon from the vehicle and, after a physical struggle on the left shoulder of the southbound Parkway, Sgt. Wetzel shot and killed Mr. Gordon with his service weapon. Sgt. Wetzel fired six times and then placed handcuffs on Mr. Gordon. (NOTE: The backward-facing camera footage shows a reversed or “mirror image” of the events captured because the camera was set to record in that manner. Consistent with Department practice, the audio component of the recording has been partially redacted to remove the sound that Mr. Gordon makes immediately upon being shot.)
- Recording 11: “Enhanced Clip (redacted).” Recording 11 contains a two-minute segment of Recording 10, but zoomed in on the view out the back window of Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle. As with Recording 10, the audio component of the recording has been partially redacted.
- Recording 12: “NJSP Radio Transmissions.” Recording 12 contains audio recordings of law enforcement radio transmissions regarding the events in Bass River. Because the radio system only records audio when an individual is speaking, the recording is “compressed,” insofar as it does not include the portions of the encounter when no one was communicating over the radio system.
At approximately 7:25 a.m., a State Trooper attempted to provide aid to Mr. Gordon, but did not detect a pulse. Shortly thereafter, a second State Trooper attempted to administer aid. EMS arrived at the scene at approximately 7:28 a.m. and pronounced Mr. Gordon deceased. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which is an independent agency housed in but not of the Department of Health, has not yet completed its medical examination report, including any conclusions about Mr. Gordon’s time of death.
Once that report is complete, the findings will be shared with Mr. Gordon’s immediate family. The information at the following link was previously made public pursuant to the Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-3.b., which lists specific criminal investigatory information that must be disclosed:www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases20/Gordon_3B_Form_5-29-20-(OPRA).pdf.
The investigation is being conducted pursuant to a state law enacted in January 2019 (P.L.2019, c.1), which requires that the Attorney General’s Office conduct investigations of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody.
The investigation is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time. Under state law and the Independent Prosecutor Directive, when the entire investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury, typically consisting of 16 to 23 citizens, to make the ultimate decision regarding whether criminal charges will be filed. The Administrative Office of the Courts has temporarily suspended the convening of grand juries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The investigation is being conducted in compliance with procedures and requirements established in the Independent Prosecutor Directive, which is available at this link:https://www.nj.gov/oag/excellence/docs/2019-4_Independent_Prosecutor_Directive.pdf
The Independent Prosecutor Directive, issued by Attorney General Grewal in December 2019, outlines a 10-step process for conducting independent investigations of use-of-force and death-in-custody incidents in compliance with state law. The directive establishes clear procedures governing such investigations to ensure that they are done fully, fairly, and independently of any potential bias. A summary of that 10-step process is available at this link:https://www.nj.gov/oag/excellence/docs/The-Independent-Prosecutor-Directive.pdf