New Jersey Police Officer – No Criminal Charges in actions taken to Save Life

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TRENTON – A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Randy Sanchez, 24, of Passaic, N.J., who was fatally shot by an officer of the Passaic Police Department last year. According to police, civilian witnesses, and security video, Sanchez was standing over a woman and holding a gun when he was shot.

Pursuant to a law enacted in January 2019, the fatal officer-involved shooting was investigated by the AG’s Shooting Response Task Force and presented to the state grand jury. The investigation included interviews of witnesses; collection of forensic evidence; review of security video; and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the state grand jury concluded its deliberations today and voted “no bill,” meaning they found that the actions of the police officer who shot Sanchez were justified and no charges should be filed against him.

The shooting occurred on January 31, 2019. The investigation revealed that at approximately 11:34 p.m., the Passaic Police Department received multiple 911 calls reporting shots fired in the area of Harrison Street and Myrtle Avenue. The officer who shot Sanchez (“Officer 1”) and three other officers of the Passaic Police Department were the first officers to arrive at the scene. They were dressed in plain clothes and arrived together in a single unmarked police vehicle.

As they arrived on scene, but before exiting their vehicle, all four officers observed three men standing on Myrtle Avenue. Two of the men immediately ran from the scene, while the third man, later identified as Randy Sanchez, pointed a handgun at the officers’ arriving vehicle before running north on Myrtle Avenue in the direction of a fleeing woman. Officer 1 exited the vehicle and ran after Sanchez.

Officer 1 reported that Sanchez was still armed with a handgun as he ran after the woman, who fell near the corner of Myrtle and Harrison. As Officer 1 drew closer, he observed Sanchez pointing the handgun at the woman, who was on her knees and screaming. Officer 1 identified himself as a police officer and yelled for Sanchez to stop. Sanchez instead swung the handgun at the woman, appearing to strike her with the weapon. Officer 1 again identified himself as a police officer and ordered Sanchez to stop.

Ignoring the order, Sanchez raised the gun to shoulder level at the woman. As he did so, he also began to turn his head and body toward Officer 1. Officer 1 then fired his 9mm service pistol six times at Sanchez. Sanchez fell to the ground while still holding the handgun. Officer 1 approached Sanchez and kicked the gun, a .32-caliber revolver, from his hands.

Sanchez was transported to St. Mary’s General Hospital in Passaic, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy revealed that Sanchez died as a result of three gunshot wounds to the torso and upper left arm.

A security camera on Harrison Street captured video of the shooting. It shows Sanchez appearing to strike the woman and standing over her with the gun when Officer 1 fires. A civilian witness said he saw Sanchez standing over the woman and heard an officer say, “Stop right there or I will shoot you!”

After considering the facts, evidence, and testimony from the investigation by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Task Force, the state grand jury found the actions of Officer 1 were justified. An officer may use deadly force in New Jersey when the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.

A law enacted in January 2019, Senate Bill 1036, requires that the Attorney General’s Office conduct investigations of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody. The law requires that such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved.

The investigation was conducted by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Task Force in accordance with the Attorney General’s Independent Prosecutor Directive, issued in 2006, strengthened in 2015, and expanded in December 2019.

The Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website at the following link:

https://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/directives/ag-Directive-2019-4.pdf

Further information about how officer-involved shootings are investigated in New Jersey under the directive is found at this link:

http://www.nj.gov/oag/independent-prosecutor/

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