The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating whether two Bridgeton police officers who fatally shot a 36-year-old man were justified in using deadly force during a traffic stop.
Jerame C. Reid, of Millville, was one of two occupants of a car that was pulled over near the intersection of South Avenue and Henry Street on Tuesday at about 9:20 p.m., the prosecutor said.
“During the course of the stop a handgun was revealed and later recovered,” the Prosecutor’s Office said. Bridgeton police said Reid was in possession of the handgun.
An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday and results are pending, the Prosecutor’s Office said.
Bridgeton officers Braheme Days and Roger Worley both fired their service weapons and both were placed on administrative leave, the Prosecutor’s Office said.
Reid has a pending federal lawsuit against the Cumberland County Jail alleging excessive force in 2009. His lawsuit alleges he was punched, kicked and pepper-sprayed in his jail cell and was taken to an emergency room for treatment of broken ribs, a fractured orbital bone and other injuries.
Reid’s attorney, Mark Frost of Philadelphia-based Mark B. Frost and Associates, said Reid’s wife contacted the law firm Wednesday and will request an independent autopsy.
“From information I’ve received, it appears that deadly force may not have been necessary in this matter,” Frost said.
Witnesses told The Press of Atlantic City they saw officers with their guns drawn approach the window of the car and yell at the occupants.
“He said, ‘Don’t effing move,’” said Tahli Dawkins, 34, of Bridgeton.
Then, Dawkins heard six or seven shots, and he saw the man lying on the ground.
“I knew it was too late,” he said.
Dawkins said he was at his cousin’s house nearby when he saw police outside.
Zakeeda Hill, 28, of Bridgeton, said she saw two officers, both of whom had their guns pointed at the car.
She also heard six or seven shots fired and one of the officers yelling for the occupants in the car to not move.
“I’m scared,” she said. “You read about it, you hear about it in the news, but I never thought it would happen in my own backyard.”
A small memorial at the site had two candles and a balloon saying, “Thinking about you.” Blood was still visible on the ground.
Authorities have not yet detailed the events leading up to the shooting or how many times Reid was shot.
Authorities said Reid’s last known address was on North Second Street in Millville.
The Prosecutor’s Office said a Use of Deadly Force investigation is being conducted per New Jersey Attorney General guidelines. The State Police Crime Scene Investigation Unit is also assisting.
An unclear video posted to Facebook by a teenager who reportedly recorded the scene from his window appears to show officers yelling commands at the car and the muffled sound of possible gunshots. The video does not directly show the shooting.
The 17-year-old boy told The Press he was waiting for his mother to come home before commenting, and the mother declined to comment.
According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, Reid alleged two jail officers beat him inside his jail cell in Bridgeton following a transfer to a different holding cell on Oct. 15, 2009.
The excessive force complaint alleges officers beat him in his cell, sprayed him in the face with mace and dumped a cold bucket of water on him.
The complaint says he was taken to Cooper University Hospital’s emergency room for his injuries. The lawsuit alleges Reid initially told nurses he was beaten by fellow inmates.
The jail formally denied the allegations in court documents and said the lawsuit was unjustified.
The case is still pending.
Frost said Reid’s federal complaint against the jail — filed in October 2011 — will continue.
The latest order in the case was dated Dec. 5.
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