Cops justified in fatally shooting man armed with airsoft gun

Cops justified in fatally shooting man armed with airsoft gun, grand jury finds. A state grand jury voted not to criminally charge the Trenton police officers who killed a man after he threatened to shoot the officers and pointed an airsoft gun at them during a 2019 confrontation at his city home, officials said Tuesday.–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/–168976295/

Grand jurors found the actions of the officers to be justified in the shooting death of 42-year-old Jason Williams after deliberations ended Monday, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

Meanwhile, an attorney for the Williams family, John Zidziunas, said officers acted “recklessly” and did not try to deescalate the incident.

In announcing that no charges would be filed, state officials released more information on the circumstances surrounding the March 14, 2019 shooting. The attorney general’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability investigated the killing, as required by state law.

Trenton Police Officers Yusuf Addar and Bryan Kirk responded to an unspecified call at Williams’ home in the 600 block of North Olden Avenue in the city around 7:20 p.m., according to a statement from the attorney general’s office. That initial call was “resolved,” the office said.

Later that night, city police received two separate 911 calls around 10:45 p.m. that reported Williams “was suicidal or threatening to harm himself in his home,” according to the account released by the attorney general’s office.

City police officers Nicolas Hogan and Daniel Piotrowski responded to the scene, the office said. Officers Addar and Kirk – who interacted with Williams earlier – heard the report and also returned to the residence for the call.

Officers knocked on the door and Williams responded through the closed door, saying “If you come in here, I’ll shoot you,” the statement said.

“Concerned for Mr. Williams’ safety, officers opened the door to check on him. They were met by Mr. Williams, who was pointing what appeared to be a firearm at them and yelling, ‘I told you.’” according to the attorney general’s office statement.

“Officers gave commands for Mr. Williams to drop the apparent gun, but he did not comply. Two officers, Addar and Hogan, fired their service weapons and fatally wounded Mr. Williams,” the office’s statement said.

Williams died later that night at a local hospital, according to the statement.

“Police recovered from the scene the item brandished by Mr. Williams, which was later determined to be an airsoft gun,” the attorney general’s office said.

“After considering the facts, evidence, and testimony from the OPIA investigation, the state grand jury found the actions of the officers were justified,” the attorney general’s office said. “Under New Jersey law, an officer may use deadly force when the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect an officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.”

Williams’ family earlier this year filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, which alleged police acted recklessly when dealing with a person in a mental health crisis. Officers fired 17 shots, including nine that struck Williams, the lawsuit said.

Two relatives reported that Williams, who long suffered from mental health issues and was earlier released from a mental health facility, was suicidal following a domestic dispute with his girlfriend, according to the lawsuit.

Attorney John Zidziunas, who represents the family, said the attorney general’s release supported his claim that police were reckless.

“All of this completely ignores the simple fact that these officers had a choice and could have chosen to not open the door, call a negotiator, and attempt to de-escalate the situation and talk him safely out of his own home,” Zidziunas wrote in an email. “The [attorney general’s office] press release confirms these officers acted recklessly knowing Mr. Williams was suicidal and threatening ‘to shoot them,’ and yet they immediately opened the door to his home and caused what was clearly a predictable outcome.”

“These officers ensured Mr. Williams’ death when they opened the door knowing he had a gun as he told them, and that they would have to use their weapons,” he added. “Our civil suit against the City and these police officers continues and will prove excessive force was unequivocally used.”

Spokespeople for the city and police department did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday night.

The Dismal Swamp, an unfortunately named 660-acre nature and wildlife preserve tucked inside a heavily populated part of Middlesex County, has been the butt of jokes for years. It’s a swamp? In the suburbs? Called what? Only in Jersey!

Well, the state may have just solved that problem — and honored a notable official from the area at the same time.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law Tuesday renaming the swamp — which spans parts of suburban Edison, Metuchen, and South Plainfield — as the Peter J. Barnes III Wildlife Preserve.

“Talk about an upgrade in the name of something,” Murphy said before signing the bill (A5822) during a ceremony in the Edison section of the preserve.

Barnes is a former state lawmaker and state Superior Court judge who died in February at age 64. The lifelong Edison resident was a township council president before representing the area for nearly a decade in Trenton, first in the state Assembly and then the Senate.

He also helped form the Dismal Swamp Preservation Commission to help save the swamp, which includes freshwater wetlands, forested uplands, and meadows and is home to more than 175 bird species and dozens of other animals. The state said it’s one of the last remaining wetland ecosystems in a densely developed region of New Jersey.

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