A PUBLISHER WRITES: A media report this weekend that the state attorney general has “launched” an investigation into the September shooting of an ex-con who tried to ram police with a stolen SUV in Rutherford after crashing during a chase is somewhat disingenuous.
It’s not much different, in fact, from the dead man’s relatives and others yesterday chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” during a demonstration in Newark.
“Launching” suggests a decision was made to investigate — when, in fact, the Office of the Attorney General reviews any and all New Jersey State Police-involved shooting deaths.
In this case, the incident automatically “triggered” the response in Trenton.
It also prompted Open Public Records Act requests from The Bergen Record and one of its weekly papers for information from five police departments involved — Lyndhurst, North Arlington, Rutherford, Bergen County and NJSP — for what it says are “incident reports, arrest reports, motor dispatch audio and video from patrol cars” from that night.
Here we go again.
Five dozen people marched in Newark yesterday “demanding” answers to their questions about the death of 23-year-old Kashad Ashford after he repeatedly rammed their vehicles with a car that authorities said he and an accomplice stole before he was shot.
According to a media report, some of them said they intend to come to Hackensack as soon as tomorrow to “converge on police departments, the Prosecutor’s Office and the coroner’s office in their bid to learn more about the circumstances of Ashford’s death.”
“I’m going to go to Bergen County and I’m going hard!” the deceased ex-convict’s mother shouted.
No. No. And no.
Yes, you’re entitled to march, picket, protest, bitch, moan, shout, cry and stamp your feet. But in this case it would be toward no useful end — at least when it comes to getting definitive answers.
The family might not want to accept it, but there’s a reason why there’s been no formal response yet to what they say are several letters, phone calls and “official requests.”
For one thing, it’s not even two months since the Sept. 16 incident. Before final determinations can be made, meticulous work must be done by a special panel working under acting state Attorney General John J. Hoffman.
“Under an Attorney General Directive, the Shooting Response Team, made up of deputy attorneys general, detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice, and detectives of the State Police Major Crime Unit, are dispatched to the scene to handle investigations of shootings involving state troopers or officers employed by county prosecutors as detectives/investigators or members of county task forces,” Hoffman said.
Two other officers fired their weapons — both from Lyndhurst. The county prosecutor is charged with reviewing their actions and presenting his findings to state authorities.
So there’s that, too.
As for the protestors’ chants of “hands up, don’t shoot”:
Let’s back up:
Ashford was out of prison 10 months when the incident occurred. He’d served more than three years for aggravated assault and what a media report referred to as “other charges.” (For the record: resisting arrest by fleeing in a motor vehicle, creating a risk of injury.)
The 6-foot-2-inch, 190-pound Ashford of Irvington and his passenger — fellow ex-con Jemmaine T. Bynes, 30, of East Orange — had a loaded .357-caliber Magnum handgun and a ski mask in the Nissan Armada, reported stolen out of Newark, Hoffman said at the time.
Hoffman said they were out trying to steal other cars in North Arlington when a resident called police and an alert was broadcast.
A Lyndhurst officer then began following the stolen SUV but broke off the chase at Route 3, a law enforcement source told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
Another Lyndhurst unit picked it up on Riverside Avenue near Valley Brook moments later, he said.
The Nissan Armada — reported stolen out of Newark — then “proceeded to drive recklessly through Lyndhurst and surrounding towns,” Hoffman said.
It headed into Rutherford, where it crashed on the Ridge Road bridge over Route 3.
Lyndhurst, Rutherford and State Police converged on the car.
“Police positioned their vehicles around the SUV in an attempt to apprehend the vehicle’s occupants,” Hoffman said, confirming an earlier CLIFFVIEW PILOT report, “but the driver put the car in reverse, spinning the tires of the vehicle until the roadway was filled with smoke.”
“The Rutherford unit pulled right up behind it,” a source told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “The driver began ramming it, trying to get away. He kept gunning it so much that it literally melted the rear tire while it was up against the Rutherford patrol car.
“The officers ordered them to stop, to stop, to stop,” the law enforcement source said. “Then the shots were fired.”
At least one was from a shotgun, another source said.
Bynes stumbled out of the SUV and was immediately handcuffed. Ashford died hours later at Hackensack University Medical Center.
No officers were injured.
“Their lives were in danger,” Lyndhurst Police Chief James O’Connor said of the officers.
Bynes remained held in the Bergen County Jail today on $75,000 bail — down from an original $100,000 — on a variety of weapons counts and receiving stolen property charges.
Given the outcome (as in: someone died), no one should expect or demand any hasty responses.
The officers involved — AND the man who was shot — deserve no less.
Just because answers aren’t coming quick enough for you doesn’t mean that they’re not coming at all. And it doesn’t mean that there’s anything shady going on.
We’re not some backwater here with a tin-badged sheriff and deputies concealing or destroying evidence.
So how about we let the system do the work that it was designed to do?
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