May 13, 2021
By: Tyler Eckel
TRENTON (MERCER)– The Attorney General’s Office today released two 911 calls and video footage from nine police body-worn cameras related to the death of Joseph Ahr Sr., 64, of Trenton, N.J., who was hospitalized and later died after police used pepper spray during his arrest on July 6, 2020.
The fatal incident remains under investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA). The recordings are being released in response to a recent OPRA request and pursuant to policies established by the Attorney General in 2019 that are designed to promote the fair, impartial, and transparent investigation of fatal police encounters. Prior to today’s release, investigators discussed the matter with Mr. Ahr’s representative and relatives and provided copies of the recordings to them for their review.
Overview of Police Encounter Prior to Mr. Ahr’s Hospitalization and Death:
Officers of the Trenton Police Department responded to Mr. Ahr’s home in the 700 block of Monmouth Street at approximately 5:30 p.m. on July 6, 2020, after police received a phone call from Mr. Ahr’s son. Trenton officers arrived and initially spoke to the son, who answered the front door. Joseph Ahr Sr. then came to the door to speak to the officers. Both the son and Mr. Ahr got into verbal disputes with the officers. After the son went into the house, Mr. Ahr remained on the porch and continued to argue with the officers.
At a certain point, officers tried to detain Mr. Ahr and he pulled away from them. Officers then took Mr. Ahr to the ground, restrained him, and handcuffed him. During that encounter, one officer deployed pepper spray. While the officers were handcuffing Mr. Ahr, he stated several times that he could not breathe. After he was sitting up, Mr. Ahr complained about other medical issues, and officers summoned emergency medical personnel. Emergency medical personnel responded to the scene, examined Mr. Ahr, treated him with oxygen, and transported him to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton. Mr. Ahr was admitted to the hospital, where he died 18 days later on July 24, 2020.
The recordings are posted here.
The Attorney General’s Office today released the identities of the Trenton police officers involved in the incident. They are Jeffrey Donaire, Kozell Hodges, Cornell Huff, Bryan Kirk, Angel Pena, Nicholas Piotrowski, Glendy Quijada, Yajaira Torres, and Acting Sgt. Rosemarie Addar. Officer Piotrowski is the officer who deployed pepper spray.
This 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 all 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. Separately, the Independent Prosecutor Directive, which was issued by Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal in December 2019, outlines a 10-step process for conducting these investigations. The Directive establishes clear procedures governing such investigations to ensure that they are conducted in a full, impartial and transparent manner. Under both state law and the 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. At present due to the COVID-19 pandemic, regular grand juries are not sitting and hearing cases.