BRIDGETON — City officials, local clergy and civil rights leaders on Friday supported the ongoing investigation into the fatal shooting of an Upper Deerfield Township man by police here last month.
The officials said they believe the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office will perform a thorough and fair inquest into the shooting death of Jermane C. Reid.
Mayor Albert Kelly and other local leaders said the Prosecutor’s Office has a track record of helping the city, including aiding efforts to reduce violence and get guns off streets here and throughout Cumberland County.
But the officials also said the final outcome of the investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office will be subject to their perusal. The findings of that investigation, while subject to review by the state Attorney General’s Office, could lead them to seek another probe by law enforcement of the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
The officials gathered for a press conference at the Municipal Court and Police Department complex on Fayette Street on Friday also lauded local residents for their patience following the shooting.
“You have shown great restraint,” said Richard Smith, president of the New Jersey Conference of the NAACP. “You have set an example of how to react.”
Part of that restraint came from what Kelly said were efforts by city officials and clergy to go into local neighborhoods, meet with residents and urge them to let the investigatory process run its course.
“We have knocked on doors,” Kelly said.
Reid, 36, was fatally shot following a traffic stop at Henry Street and South Avenue. Law enforcement officials said Officers Braheme Days and Roger Worley discharged their service weapons after a handgun was “revealed” and then “recovered.”
A video taken by the dashboard camera of the patrol car used by Days and Worley shows a hectic series of events that ended with Reid being shot as he got out of the motor vehicle in which he was a passenger. The video seems to indicate that Reid was unarmed and was holding his hands at chest level when shot.
The video also indicates that Reid was not following orders given by Days, including instructions for Reid not to move. Statements by Days indicate he believed Reid was “reaching” for something in the vehicle before Reid got out of the vehicle.
Protesters, including members of the Salem County-based National Awareness Alliance, have argued that there are too many conflicts of interest in the Prosecutor’s Office for that agency to fairly investigate Reid’s shooting. The Attorney General’s Office has declined to intervene in the investigation, saying it is being conducted “in accordance with the state’s well-established procedures.”
Protesters have also chastised Kelly and other city officials not condemning Reid’s shooting or supporting their efforts.
On Friday, Kelly and other city officials, including Police Department leaders, declined to answer questions related to the investigation.
Kelly said he did not consider it “legal” for him to interject himself in the investigation. Police Chief Mark Ott and Capt. Michael Gaimari, the Police Department’s executive officer, said they have not yet been told by the Prosecutor’s Office of any aspect of the investigation.
Kelly said city residents have the right know the results of that investigation. He said those results will be made public after the investigation is complete.
“I leave it up to you to judge,” Kelly told those in the meeting room.
Smith also defended the NAACP against allegations by protesters that the organization is not standing up for residents in connection with Reid’s shooting. Smith said the NAACP is waiting for the results of the investigation, and is meanwhile determined to build better relations between the community and police.
“We don’t march for marching’s sake,” Smith said.
Albert Morgan, pastor of Union Baptist Temple and president of the Bridgeton Christian Ministerium, said the clergy is supporting the Police Department and the Prosecutor’s Office in connection with the investigation into Reid’s death. He said he anticipates that local residents, including Reid’s family, will be “satisfied with the findings.”
“Justice will take its course,” said James Dunkins, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church and a former member of the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders. “I truly believe it.”
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