A Vineland police officer was justified in using force in the fatal shooting of Rashaun Washington last summer in Vineland, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said Thursday.
The Prosecutor’s Office determined it was unnecessary to present the matter to a grand jury because there were no material facts in dispute regarding the lawfulness of the use of force, Webb-McRae said.
On July 14, 2018, an officer discharged his police-issued rifle during a standoff with Washington, 37, of Camden, in the 400 block of West Wood Street, Webb-McRae said. Previous reporting identified the officer as Sgt. Brian Armstrong.
At 11:22 a.m. that day, Vineland police received a call from a resident of the property saying an unknown, shirtless male was refusing to leave. Two officers arrived at the scene at 11:26 a.m., Webb-McRae said.
When police arrived, the man, later identified as Washington, was standing in the middle of a driveway, Webb-McRae said. Washington refused to identify himself when the two officers asked him his name, she said. Officers saw a white T-shirt wrapped around an unknown object in Washington’s hands, she said. The object was later revealed to be a pair of gardening shears.
One of the officers directed Washington to put down the object, and he refused, Webb-McRae said. One of the officers asked Washington what was in his hand, and Washington said, “You’re going to have to kill me,” she said.
At 11:28 a.m., Armstrong arrived with a police-issued rifle and took up a position a few feet from the end of the driveway and about 20 feet from Washington with his rifle pointed at Washington, Webb-McRae said.
Within five minutes of a call for backup, nine Vineland officers were on the scene. Washington started pacing in the driveway, Webb-McRae said. He continued to refuse to put down the object.
About 11:30 a.m., Washington said the officers would have to shoot him in the head, otherwise he would pull the pin from the object in his hand, implying it was a grenade, and they would “all die,” Webb-McRae said.
At 11:44 a.m., Washington began to get more agitated and started pacing faster, Webb-McRae said. Armstrong raised his rifle, pointed it at Washington and told him to stay back, she said. Washington continued to say he was going to make the object in his hand explode.
At 11:56 a.m., Washington charged toward Armstrong, reaching within about 8 feet of him, Webb-McRae said. Armstrong fired three times in immediate succession. His shots hit Washington in the shoulder, abdomen and forearm, she said.
Police started to try to provide medical assistance to Washington by applying pressure to gunshot wounds after he was handcuffed, Webb-McRae said. The entire incident was documented by the body cameras of the nine responding officers.
Washington arrived by ambulance at Inspira Medical Center Vineland at 12:10 p.m. without cardiac activity and was pronounced dead at 12:30 p.m., Webb-McRae said.
A toxicology report showed Washington was under the influence of the drugs THC and PCP at the time of his death, Webb-McRae said.
An independent analysis of the facts led to the determination the officer who fired the shots had a reasonable belief that discharging his rifle was necessary to protect himself, other officers and bystanders.