August 10, 2021
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Jason Williams, 42 of Trenton, N.J., who was fatally shot by two officers of the Trenton Police Department on March 14, 2019. As required by statute, all fatal police encounters must be presented to a grand jury. According to available evidence, including body worn cameras and civilian and police witnesses, Mr. Williams pointed what appeared to be a gun at the officers. Two officers fired their weapons and fatally shot Mr. Williams.
The officer-involved shooting was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to 16 to 23 New Jersey residents called to serve on the grand jury in accordance with Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive,” issued by Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal in 2019. In July, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (“SOPs”) to ensure that these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, and with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the Independent Prosecutor Directive. The investigation of this officer-involved shooting included interviews of witnesses; review of body worn camera footage; and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury concluded its deliberations on Monday, August 9, and voted “no bill,” meaning a majority of grand jurors found the actions of the officers who fired upon Mr. Williams were justified and no charges should be filed against them.
According to the investigation, Trenton Police Officers Yusuf Addar and Bryan Kirk responded to a call for service at Mr. Williams’ home in the 600 block of North Olden Avenue at approximately 7:22 p.m. on March 14, 2019. That police response was resolved.
Trenton Police later received two separate 911 calls at about 10:46 p.m. reporting that Mr. Williams was suicidal or threatening to harm himself in his home. Trenton Police Officers Nicolas Hogan and Daniel Piotrowski responded to the scene. Upon hearing the address, Officers Addar and Kirk also responded, as they had interacted with Mr. Williams earlier that evening. When they arrived, officers knocked on the door. Mr. Williams responded through the closed door, “If you come in here, I’ll shoot you.” Concerned for Mr. Williams’ safety, officers opened the door to check on him. They were met by Mr. Williams, who was pointing what appeared to be a firearm at them and yelling, “I told you.” Officers gave commands for Mr. Williams to drop the apparent gun, but he did not comply. Two officers, Addar and Hogan, fired their service weapons and fatally wounded Mr. Williams.
Mr. Williams was taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton, where he was pronounced deceased at approximately 11:16 p.m. that night. Police recovered from the scene the item brandished by Mr. Williams, which was later determined to be an airsoft gun.
After considering the facts, evidence, and testimony from the OPIA investigation, the state grand jury found the actions of the officers were justified. Under New Jersey law, an officer may use deadly force when the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect an officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.
A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the Attorney General’s Office to 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. It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved.
A conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation. Prior to presentation to the grand jury, the investigation was reviewed by OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations in the SOPs.
At the conclusion of these investigations, pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any principal should be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for administrative review in accordance with the AG’s Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures. OPIA monitors any resulting review and takes such actions as are necessary to ensure that the review is completed in a timely fashion, and that appropriate actions are taken based on the results of the review.
The Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website at this link:
Further information about how officer-involved shootings are investigated in New Jersey under the directive is found at this link: http://www.nj.gov/oag/independent-prosecutor/