Investigators have recovered the handgun they say 18-year-old Derreck Mack was carrying when he was fatally shot in the back by Atlantic City police — but they have not yet determined whether Mack was surrendering or drawing his weapon.
Mack, who was on probation for illegal gun possession when the shooting happended at about 2 p.m. Monday, had been running from police officers who repeatedly told him to drop the gun.
The officer who shot Mack has not yet been named publicly, but the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office identified him Wednesday as a 14-year veteran of the Atlantic City Police Department in their statement detailing Mack’s weapon and injuries.
In a voluntary statement to investigators, the officer said he fired because he “feared for his life” upon seeing Mack reach into his waistband for the handgun.
“No conclusions have been reached regarding the reliability of the information gathered thus far, and no conclusion has been reached regarding whether the officer involved in the shooting acted lawfully or unlawfully,” Prosecutor Jim McClain said a separate statement issued to the media.
McClain's release detailed Mack’s weapon — a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun now undergoing forensic analysis — for the first time since the incident Monday afternoon. It also disclosed that Mack was hit twice in the back of his upper left torso.
None of the police or residents interviewed by investigators debated that Mack was armed or that police ordered him to drop his weapon, officials said.
Some of those interviewed say they saw him draw a weapon before the officer fired. To others, however, it seemed like Mack was surrendering.
“These conflicting observations will need to be evaluated and judged in light of each other and … the other information gathered during the investigation,” the release stated.
The Prosecutor’s Office has declined to answer whether the incident was captured by security cameras at the nearby Stanley Holmes Village apartment complex. Atlantic City Housing Authority Executive Director Pam James said law enforcement officials viewed surveillance footage after the shooting but have not requested copies. She declined further comment.
Prosecutor's Office representatives also did not respond to calls and emails with questions about the statement, which was released just after 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Atlantic City activist Marte King questioned the validity of the prosecutor's statement because he said he's talked to too many people who say they didn't see a gun at the scene of the shooting.
Steve Young, president of the local chapter of National Action Network, said the residents will continue to work together to hold authorities accountable.
“We are here to support each other,” Young said. “This is not going (to be swept) under the rug. We will expose the wrong and let the truth reveal itself.”
Young and King spoke during a rally held on Mack’s behalf at City Hall Wednesday evening that started before McClain’s office went public with updates in the investigation.
So they weren’t aware that McClain intends to hire an independent expert in ballistics and shooting-scene reconstruction. The intent is for the contractor to determine whether scientific evidence supports witness testimony and autopsy results, which determined Mack died of two gunshot wounds to the back of his upper left torso, according to the statement.
They did, however, know the nature of Mack’s injuries because some of his family members, were there and had seen his body earlier in the day.
Since the shooting, however, they and other residents remain unconvinced the shooting was necessary.
They demanded an apology from the mayor and city police, who cannot say much publicly while the Prosecutor’s Office runs its investigation
State Attorney General's Office guidelines prohibit local police departments from getting involved in investigating shootings involving their own officers. Instead, the Prosecutor’s Office in the county handles the matter. Part of the process entails notification of the Attorney General’s Office, which has occurred, according to the statement.
Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford said through his spokesman that he’s praying for Mack, “that the Lord will have mercy on his soul” and his family, the family of the officer, and “that healing will come”to the entire community.
“(I) ask that the community allow the investigation to take its course,” Langford said. “Reserve judgment until the process has been allowed to be completed.”
Mack’s 19-year-old brother, Raymond, remains jailed on $100,000 bail on charges of cocaine possession and punching a uniformed sergeant in the face after his younger brother was shot.
Terry Davis, 24, also is jailed on $100,000 bail for weapons possession charges. Davis was with Mack when the police pursuit began but heeded their commands to stop and drop his weapon.
Wednesday’s demonstration drew a fraction of the people who protested on the steps of the Public Safety Building for an hour or so Tuesday night. About 75 friends, neighbors and relatives joined Mack’s mother Ruby Conde, who had arrived from Virginia at noon Tuesday.
Conde learned of her son’s death by phone Monday — three days after she left her children and longtime home in Atlantic City to “get away from the violence.”
Staff writer Joel Landau contributed to this report.
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