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Suspect had claw hammer, saw, prosecutor says in blow-by-blow of Garfield police shooting

Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor
Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor
Photo Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Malik Williams advanced on two police officers with a claw hammer and metal saw, cursing them and not stopping despite their commands, when they shot him dead last December in a Garfield garage, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli revealed this afternoon in a blow-by-blow account from a grand jury investigation of the incident.

PHOTOS: Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli

CLIFFVIEW PILOT SCOOP (8:24 p.m.): Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli was whisked by detectives from the county administration building in Hackensack tonight after a group of protestors angry about the exonerations earlier today of two police officers in a fatal Garfield shooting disrupted a meeting about consolidating police services in the county. READ MORE….



Two “no bills” were handed up by the grand jurors in open court this morning, said Molinelli, adding that he is “satisfied that this investigation was conducted completely, thoroughly and fairly” by his department.

The prosecutor said it all began when Williams’ girlfriend, Jasmine Rivera, came to Garfield police headquarters on Dec. 9 to report a domestic violence incident.

As a result, a temporary restraining order was issued against Williams, Molinelli said. Police also charged him with third-degree aggravated assault. A local judge set bail at $10,000, the prosecutor said.

The next day, Garfield police tried — and failed — to serve Williams with the TRO and the criminal complaint, Molinelli said.

They did reach his mother, Shirley Williams, and told her of the situation, he said.


YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A Bergen County grand jury cleared two officers — one from Garfield and the other with the Bergen County Police Department K9 squad — in connection with the shooting death of a Garfield suspect who fled city headquarters and holed up in a garage last December, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned. READ MORE….


Records show that Malik Williams showed up at headquarters at 1:19 p.m. Two minutes later, he was “escorted into the processing room of the Garfield Police Department so that he could be fingerprinted, photographed and served with a copy of the TRO and criminal complaint,” Molinelli said.


Williams remained there for about two hours, he said.

“It is important to note that Malik Williams’ entire stay in the Garfield Police Department is captured on video surveillance film,” Molinelli said. “It is important to note that a review of the video surveillance footage clearly indicates that Malik Williams was not mistreated in any way by members of the Garfield Police Department during his stay there.”

Police searched Williams and didn’t find any weapons or contraband, he added.

“Malik Williams was advised of the bail that had been set on the criminal complaint. After speaking with his mother via a recorded telephone conversation, Malik Williams told the officers that he would be unable to post the bail,” Molinelli said in a statement. “The officers informed Malik Williams that he would be transported to the Bergen County Jail since he was unable to post bail.

“Malik Williams’ stay in the processing room was lengthy because the officers were having technical difficulties with the computers involved with fingerprinting and photographing,” the prosecutor added. “Since Malik Williams was calm and cooperative during his time in the processing room, the officers did not keep him continually (hand)cuffed.

“It was during the time that the officers had their backs turned that Malik Williams leapt up and bolted from the processing room. Malik Williams then went down a flight of stairs and out two separate doors before he ran across the parking lot of the Garfield Police Department.  The three officers who were in the processing room with Williams followed him.”

Williams ran into nearby Dahnerts Lake Park, then on railroad tracks alongside Gemini Plastic, where he found a fence separating the company from a two-family home with a detached garage at 22 Dahnert Park Lane, Molinelli said.

The side and bay door were always kept unlocked, and residents there ordinarily got in through the side, the prosecutor said.

“The evidence obtained during the course of this investigation indicates that once Malik Williams entered this detached garage, he barricaded the side door with 3 air conditioner units and a very heavy drill press,” he said.

A Bergen County Police Department K9 officer was dispatched to the scene, where he met with a Garfield police sergeant, Molinelli said. After receiving a briefing from an off-duty Garfield officer, they began a search.

The dog ultimately led them to the side door of the detached garage. Althugh they couldn’t get in, Molinelli said, they noticed someone was inside.

The county police officer opened the bay door of the garage, “then took a couple of steps inside,” the prosecutor said.

“At that point, Malik Williams popped up from behind a pile of materials,” Molinelli said. “When [the county officer] saw Williams, he told him he was under arrest and ordered him to get down.

“Malik Williams did not comply with [the] command. Instead, Malik Williams advanced towards [the officers] with a claw hammer and metal hand saw with [a] 16-inch blade,” the prosecutor said.

Both officers ordered Williams to “stop and drop his weapons,” Molinelli said.

“Malik Williams refused to comply,” he said. “He continued to advance towards both officers while holding the claw hammer and metal hand saw in an aggressive, threatening manner.  As he was advancing towards the officers, Malik Williams cursed at them.”

The county officer “did NOT draw his weapon until Williams was approximately 10 feet away from him,” the prosecutor said.

The county officer had backed out of the garage as Williams advanced toward him with the weapons, Molinelli said.

Despite repeated commands by both officers, Williams “continued to advance towards them, yelling, cursing and holding the weapons in a threatening manner,” the prosecutor said.

The police dog couldn’t be deployed, he said, because:

• Patrol dogs are not trained to attack armed subjects;
• The standard police canine restraint used doesn’t allow for quick release;
• The officer would have had to reholster his weapon, “which he simply could not do,” Molinelli said;
• There was “a very real potential that this patrol dog could have attacked [the Garfield officer], thus exacerbating an already dangerous situation.”

Williams “was approximately 7-8 feet away” when both officers fired, the prosecutor said. “Malik Williams eventually fell to the ground. Once the officers determined that he was no longer a threat, they immediately began rescue efforts.

“An examination of this shooting scene revealed that a total of nine rounds were fired,” five from the county officer and four from the city officer, Molinelli said.  “The post-mortem examination on the body of Malik Williams revealed that he sustained five gunshot wounds.

“It is important to note that the sequence of these gunshot wounds could not be determined,” the prosecutor emphasized.

“The first gunshot wound was an entrance wound on the right side of the chest,” he said. “The first gunshot wound had a corresponding exit wound on the right side of the back.

“The second gunshot wound was an entrance wound on the abdomen to the right of the belly button.  There was no corresponding exit wound. A projectile was recovered.

“The third gunshot wound entered the lateral aspect of the right thigh and exited by the front of the groin.

“The fourth gunshot wound entered the anterior lateral aspect of the right wrist and lodged in the fleshy part below the thumb. That bullet was removed.

“The fifth gunshot wound was to the back of the left hand by the ring finger. The exit wound was to the back of the hand. There was no projectile recovered.”

Molinelli emphasized: “It is clear from the objective evidence that Mr. Williams was fired upon from the front and not the rear of his body.”

He then disclosed another piece of evidence:

“During an examination of the clothing worn by Malik Williams, the medical examiner found a rock in the right front pants pocket. This rock was subsequently compared to — and matched — other rocks found in the train track bedding of the train tracks near Dahnert Park Lane. Thus, the evidence shows that Malik Williams armed himself with this rock after he fled from the Garfield Police Department.

“The scientific and ballistics testing revealed that there was no evidence of close range firing.”


[ NOTE: CLIFFVIEW PILOT is keeping a promise not to identify the officers, who both have families, as per editorial policy. ]


CLICK HEADLINES TO READ:

Activist in Garfield shooting gets court order for Bergen prosecutor to defend withholding names in police-force cases
Friday, 08 June 2012 10:02
Jerry DeMarco

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: An activist representing a Garfield man killed while resisting arrest has obtained a judge’s order that the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office explain in court why it won’t provide the names of recent subjects of police force, excluding juveniles.


Urgent message from Garfield PBA Local #46

Tuesday, 22 May 2012 21:24 Jerry DeMarco

A POLICE UNION WRITES: In response to a recent newspaper article, we must clarify a misunderstanding. It has been questioned why Sgt. Jose A. Brito was permitted to work outside of his assigned administrative duty following the tragic events of Dec. 10, 2011.

Garfield teen wasn’t shot in back, prosecutor says

Thursday, 08 March 2012 15:46 Jerry DeMarco

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli took the unusual step this afternoon of announcing that a man killed in a police shooting wasn’t shot in the back, and that one bullet wound, not two, was found.

Because a grand jury investigation into the shooting is under way – as is required under state law – Molinelli said he had to be extremely circumspect.


Prosecutor warned activist against trespassing prior to arrests

Friday, 20 January 2012 16:12 Jerry DeMarco

EXCLUSIVE: Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said he warned a community activist demanding answers in the shooting death of a Garfield teen in writing that he risked arrest if he came to county offices unannounced and refused to leave — which is what happened earlier today. CLIFFVIEW PILOT has obtained a copy of the warning letter sent by the prosecutor:

Prosecutor: Escaped inmate armed with tools when police shot him

Sunday, 11 December 2011 16:39 Jerry DeMarco

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli this afternoon confirmed a CLIFFVIEW PILOT report from last night that 19-year-old Malik Williams of Garfield was hiding in a garage after escaping from police custody and charged two officers with tools from inside when they shot him dead late yesterday afternoon.


Escaped prisoner shot dead by police

Saturday, 10 December 2011 18:18 Jerry DeMarco

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: A 19-year-old escaped prisoner, was shot dead by police as he swung a pair of tools at them in a Garfield garage where he had barricaded himself, a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the incident told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . Several sources in Garfield identified him as Malik Williams. “He was being processed for a domestic incident when he escaped,” another law enforcement official told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .






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