BRIDGETON — A Cumberland County grand jury on Wednesday declined to file criminal charges against two police officers involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in December.
The shooting, which followed a routine motor vehicle stop at Henry Street and South Avenue, killed Jerame C. Reid, 36, of Upper Deerfield Township.
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A group that led protests after the shooting, and unsuccessfully called for the state to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate it, said the Reid family is “outraged by the decision.”
“We’re disappointed, but we’re not surprised,” said Walter L. Hudson Sr., chairman of the Salem County-based National Awareness Alliance. “There are issues with police in black and brown communities throughout the United States. We have no faith and trust that the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office will hold their own responsible.”
Mayor Albert Kelly and Police Chief Michael Gaimari could not be reached for comment Thursday. Both attorneys for the Reid family, Conrad Benedetto and Mark Frost, also could not be reached.
Reid’s widow, Lawanda Reid, has filed suit in U.S. District Court against the two officers, Braheme Days and Roger Worley, seeking at least $1 million in damages for violating her husband’s civil rights.
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Days, who is black, fired seven shots, including the fatal ones. Worley, who is white, fired one shot that did not hit Reid.
The civil suit also names as defendants the city of Bridgeton, the Bridgeton Police Department, former Police Chief Mark Ott and Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae, who recused herself from the case because she knows the Days family.
The case was investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office and the State Police. It included witness statements from the two officers and the driver of the blue Jaguar that Reid was a passenger in that night. The grand jury also had video from police cameras that seemed to match witness statements.
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A statement put out by county First Assistant Prosecutor Harold Shapiro, who took over the investigation when Webb-McRae recused herself, outlined the facts presented to the grand jury.
“Once again, the officers’ commands were as clear and concise as they possibly could have been. And as much of a tragedy as it was, if he (Reid) had followed officers’ instructions, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today,” said Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policeman’s Benevolent Association.
The officers’ return to work is pending an administrative review, Colligan said. Days and Worley have been on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, and the results will be reviewed by the state Attorney General’s Office.
“I would certainly expect them back on duty as soon as possible,” Colligan said.
Shapiro’s account said the Jaguar did not come to a full stop at an intersection and was pulled over. When the driver reached into the glove compartment to get his license, the officers saw a gun, which was later determined to have Reid’s DNA on it.
According to Shapiro, both officers drew their firearms at this point, and both knew Reid had a previous conviction for shooting at law-enforcement officers. Days had arrested Reid before on a charge of resisting arrest.
Days had his service weapon in his right hand, and he grabbed the gun, a 40-caliber Browning, out of the glove box with his left. The officers gave an order not to move and to show hands.
According to Shapiro’s release, the driver complied, but Reid said he was exiting the vehicle. Days told him not to move and blocked the driver’s side door, but Reid forced his way out.
The officers then opened fire. Days fired seven shots in two seconds. An autopsy determined he fired the fatal shots.
The grand jury was given a statement from Days in which he said he perceived his life and the life of his partner were in “imminent danger.” Days said he believed Reid had a weapon or was planning to try to take a weapon from the officers. Worley said he feared for his life.
Reid was taken to Inspira Medical Center Vineland, where he was pronounced dead from multiple gunshot wounds.
The grand jury was instructed on issues such as use of force by police and the “laws of justification.”
The National Awareness Alliance argues there was no justification.
“Jerame Reid was unarmed and still shot to death on tape. The culture of policing in America clearly shows we must push for police reform. There seems to be no justice for black, brown and poor people who are unjustifiably murdered at the hands of police. Now, we will appeal to the United States Department Of Justice Civil Rights Division and demand an investigation into the death of Jerame Reid,” Hudson said.