New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office Closes Investigation Into The Death Of Jerame C. Reid
NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced today that following a thorough federal investigation, there is insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges in connection with the fatal shooting of Jerame C. Reid. On Dec. 30, 2014, Mr. Reid was killed by Bridgeton Police Officer Braheme Days following a traffic stop of a car in which Mr. Reid was a passenger. Representatives from the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office met today with Mr. Reid’s family to inform them of the decision.
Following Mr. Reid’s death, the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI, in consultation with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, opened a criminal investigation into whether that shooting violated federal law. Viewing the evidence as whole, the government determined that federal charges are not warranted.
The federal criminal statute that enforces Constitutional limits on uses of force by law enforcement officers is 18 U.S.C. § 242. A violation of Section 242 requires the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was acting under color of law, that he deprived a victim of a right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, that the deprivation resulted in bodily injury and/or death, and that he acted willfully.
There is no dispute that Officer Days, who was on duty as a police officer for the Bridgeton Police, acted under color of law when he shot Mr. Reid and that the shots resulted in Mr. Reid’s death. However, criminal prosecution is appropriate only if there is sufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that any of the shots fired by Officer Days were unreasonable and that he fired those shots with the requisite willful criminal intent.
As the U.S. Supreme Court has explained, the use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the “20/20 vision of hindsight.” Allowance must be made for the fact that law enforcement officials are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving. The use of deadly force is justified when the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others.
In addition, the law requires that the government prove that the shooting was done willfully: mistake, fear, misperception, or even poor judgment does not constitute willful conduct prosecutable under the statute.
To make the proper assessment under these standards, federal agents and prosecutors evaluated the physical, forensic, ballistic and crime scene evidence, medical and autopsy reports, the officers’ personnel records, audio and video recordings, internet postings, any relevant leads, as well as the extensive prior investigation conducted by the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office to which investigators were given full access. FBI agents and federal prosecutors interviewed the driver of the vehicle, who had given several prior statements about the events that evening, spoke to Mr. Reid's family members, and pursued various leads in an effort to investigate and evaluate every possible source of relevant information. The audio and video from the police dashboard camera, as well as the physical and forensic evidence provided federal prosecutors with a benchmark against which to measure the credibility of the witness’s accounts, including that of Officer Days.
Investigators compared individual witness accounts to the physical and forensic evidence, to other credible witness accounts, and to each witness’s own prior statements made throughout the investigations. Investigators also re-interviewed certain witnesses in an effort to clarify aspects of their testimony, to evaluate their accounts and to obtain more detailed information. In so doing, investigators assessed the witnesses’ demeanor, tone, bias, and ability to accurately perceive or recall the events of Dec. 30, 2014.
The death of Mr. Reid arose out of a traffic stop of a car in which he was a passenger. During the stop, police officers discovered a firearm in the glove compartment of the car. Officer Days and Officer Roger Worley then drew their firearms and ordered Mr. Reid and the driver not to move. The driver complied, while Mr. Reid continued to reach toward the console area between the passenger and driver front seats. Eventually, Mr. Reid forced his way out of the passenger side door against the repeated directives of Officer Days. Mr. Reid was shot as he exited the car in the direction of Officer Days. Although Officer Worley also fired his weapon, only the shots fired by Officer Days struck Mr. Reid.
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. In order 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. As a result, the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office will not pursue criminal charges against Officer Days.