BRIDGETON — Protesters are demanding that the state Attorney General’s Office take control of the investigation surrounding the fatal shooting by police of Jerame C. Reid.
Officials with the Salem County-based National Awareness Alliance charged Wednesday that there are too many conflicts within the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office for that agency to conduct a fair investigation.
Chief among those conflicts is that Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae knows Officer Braheme Days, alliance Chairman Walter Hudson said.
Days is one of two officers who fired on Reid the evening of Dec. 30. Webb-McRae has since removed herself from the investigation, but Hudson contends that does not resolve any potential conflicts.
“If she has a conflict, so does her subordinates,” said Hudson. “Considering the position that she holds, (Webb-McRae) should be willing to preserve the integrity of the investigation and hand it over to another law-enforcement agency.”
Hudson said he met with representatives of the Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday, requesting that a deputy attorney general be assigned to supervise the investigation. He said the outcome of the meeting was promising.
However, a statement issued by Attorney General’s Office spokesman Paul Loriquet indicates that New Jersey authorities will not take charge of the investigation.
“This case is being investigated in accordance with the state’s well-established procedures,” Loriquet said. “The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office is handling the investigation and ultimately will present the case to a grand jury, unless the undisputed facts indicate the use of force was justifiable under the law. The investigation’s findings and conclusions will be reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office.”
First Assistant Prosecutor Harold Shapiro is overseeing the investigation into the use of deadly force by Days and Officer Roger Worley. Shapiro released a statement Wednesday saying the Prosecutor’s Office is “committed to conducting a thorough, fair and impartial investigation.”
“Our most important responsibility is assuring that all parties involved — the deceased, his family, the involved officers and the community — receive a fair and impartial process,” Shapiro said.
Part of that investigation involves the Prosecutor’s Office not releasing any information about it until “this matter is complete,” he said in the statement. “We implore the public’s patience until such time as the investigation is complete.”
Reid, 36, of Seabrook in Upper Deerfield Township, was fatally shot following a traffic stop at Henry Street and South Avenue. Authorities said Days and 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 he got out of it.
On Wednesday, Hudson called for the state to take over the investigation during a press conference outside the Prosecutor’s Office on Vine Street.
Hudson also charged that Mayor Albert Kelly was negligent in his duties at the city’s chief executive for not condemning Reid’s shooting. He said Kelly failed to take action against Days and Worley in connection with complaints lodged against the officers by citizens and alleged disciplinary action taken against the officers in connection with the performance of their duties.
Kelly has asked residents “not to rush to judgment, but to allow the facts of the investigation to reveal themselves in the course of the investigation.” He also has said it would be “illegal” for him to intervene in the investigation.
Hudson also called for residents to boycott Edwards and Son Funeral Home. Funeral director R. Todd Edwards is second vice president of the Greater Vineland Branch of the NAACP. Hudson said Edwards and his branch would not support his protest efforts.
Edwards deferred comment to Richard Smith, president of the State Conference of the NAACP. Smith said Hudson’s comments were “detrimental” to NAACP efforts and that the requested boycott was irresponsible.
“Edwards and Son has nothing to do with the (Reid) situation,” Smith said. “It has nothing to do with the NAACP. No one should have their private lives or place of business affected in that way.”
Smith said city residents have shown great restraint in their decision to wait for the results of the investigation into Reid’s death. He also said the “track record” of Kelly and Webb-McRae includes significant efforts to stop violence.
“The question is, where were some of these people, especially those coming from outside Bridgeton, when some of these events were ongoing to try and improve the community in which residents of Bridgeton live?” Smith said.
Hudson is from Penns Grove in Salem County.
Smith also said he believes Webb-McRae will “ensure that we have a fair, thorough and transparent investigation,” and that Webb-McRae will “push for an indictment” if the investigation reveals wrongdoing on behalf of Days and Worley.
Hudson said he plans to protest at the Prosecutor’s Office headquarters again today, and during the next meeting of City Council.
Council last week rejected Hudson’s demand for a resolution condemning Reid’s shooting.
Contact Thomas Barlas: