BRIDGETON — The Bridgeton police officer who shot and killed Jerame Reid during a traffic stop in 2014 will not face criminal charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said there is “insufficient evidence to pursue charges” in the shooting that killed Reid, 36, of Upper Deerfield Township, after the driver of the car allegedly ran a stop sign at Henry Street and South Avenue on Dec. 30, 2014.
The fatal shooting was captured on video by the dashboard camera in the police cruiser.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said it met with Reid’s family Monday before announcing the decision.
The shooting prompted protests in Bridgeton in the context of the national Black Lives Matter movement.
Walter Hudson, an activist with the Salem County-based National Awareness Alliance, organized protests in Bridgeton after the shooting.
“I’m deeply disappointed. It leaves the family with unanswered questions. How can an unarmed man be shot down on video and the officers are not deemed in the wrong? No criminal charges? No civil rights violations?” he said.
Hudson said New Jersey and other states must change statutes to clarify when it is lawful to use deadly force.
“The statute has the words ‘reasonable fear.’ Nowhere is there a clear definition of what constitutes reasonable fear,” Hudson said. “It seems that when it comes to people of color, there is always reasonable fear.”
The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office investigated the shooting and presented the case to a grand jury. The grand jury chose not to indict the officers.
The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI opened their own criminal inquiry into whether the shooting violated federal law. That investigation also determined criminal charges were not warranted.
Police Chief Michael Gaimari could not be reached for comment.
Reid was a passenger in a car driven by Leroy Tutt when it was stopped at night on Henry Street.
Officer Roger Worley approached the driver’s side of the vehicle while Officer Braheme Days approached the passenger’s side. The U.S. Attorney said Days and Worley saw a handgun in the glovebox of the car and ordered Tutt and Reid to show them their hands. When Reid tried to force open the passenger door, Braheme shot him multiple times. Worley also fired his handgun, but did not hit anyone.
“While in hindsight it is clear that Mr. Reid was unarmed, Officer Days stated that he feared that Mr. Reid either had a firearm or was attempting to grab one from him,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
As part of the investigation, the FBI interviewed Tutt, witnesses and Reid’s family. They examined audio and video from the dashboard camera and evidence provided by federal prosecutors to measure the credibility of witness accounts, including the Bridgeton officers.
The U.S. Attorney said investigators considered the witnesses’ demeanor, tone, bias and ability to perceive and recall events.
“To bring a federal criminal charge in these circumstances, the government would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Days did not fear for his own life and safety, but rather shot and killed Mr. Reid for malicious or improper reasons. The government does not believe it can carry that burden beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The U.S. Attorney said criminal charges are warranted only if an officer commits a willful violation of the law.
“Mistake, fear, (perception) or even poor judgment (do) not constitute willful conduct prosecutable under the statute,” the agency said.