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Police on low-level alert for Garfield shooting protests

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: Police throughout Bergen County will be on alert and ready to mobilize if trouble breaks out at either of two separate Saturday rallies protesting the police shooting death of a 19-year-old Garfield man, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.

Member of Bergen County Rapid Deployment Force

Twentieth Century Field, at Elizabeth Street off Harrison Avenue, will be the staging area beginning at 1 o’clock Saturday, an hour before the first event, and continuing until 10 p.m., well after the second is expected to end.

The countywide alert to all local police departments comes at a time when the Bergen County Police and Sheriff’s departments are on 24-hour patrol of houses of worship and ethnic community centers while the search continues for whoever through a Molotov cocktail threw a Rutherford rabbi’s bedroom window.

The county’s Rapid Deployment Force is prepared for Saturday, as well.

The military-type RDF, under the authority of the Bergen County Police Chief’s Association, is comprised of nearly 200 officers drawn from every law enforcement agency in the county. The unit’s purpose is to respond instantly to a large-scale disaster or civil disorder. It’s been called out for a variety of situations — and helped secure key locations in Bergen County and at the George Washington Bridge after the Twin Towers were struck.

Its equipment includes helmets, gas masks, shields, medical kits and other tools funded by assets the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office confiscates from criminals. EMTs and paramedics also participate, in order to treat not only injured police but civilians.

Protesters are upset that two police officers shot 19-year-old Malik Williams of Garfield dead after he escaped from police headquarters, barricaded himself inside a garage and, according to Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli, wielded tools in each hand when they opened the bay door and surprised him.

As CLIFFVIEW PILOT first reported, Williams turned himself in to Garfield police on Dec. 10 in response to a warrant for his arrest on aggravated assault charges in connection with a fight he had with his girlfriend.

While they were processing him, Williams bolted, the prosecutor said.

Several officers chased him north along the railroad tracks near police headquarters, as a Bergen County Police K-9 unit was summoned.

As CLIFFVIEW PILOT first reported exclusively, the police dog tracked Williams directly to a private residential garage on Dahnerts Park Lane.

A Garfield police officer and Bergen County officer found the side door barricaded shut, so they tried the bay door. It opened and the officers confronted Williams, who Molinelli said had armed himself with tools gathered from the garage.

Williams was shot several times and was later pronounced dead at Hackensack University Medical Center.

The 5-foot-10, 150-pound Williams had been arrested three times in two years in Bergen County, once for resisting arrest and eluding and two more times for aggravated assault — including an incident in May last year for which he had to post $25,000 bail, public records show.

Molinelli said his office is leading an investigation that he said includes the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department and the Medical Examiner’s Office, which conducted the autopsy.

Saturday’s first rally begins at 2 o’clock at Garfield’s Columbus Park, at Outwater Lane and Midland Avenue. The second begins outside Williams’ house.

The organizers of the second event have said they want attention brought to additional issues, including getting Garfield police to enforce parking regulations and demanding that the city provide more youth programs.

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