AG’s Office handles investigation of fatal police-involved shooting

Photo Courtesy of Tony Vauss
Irvington Officer Brandon Gaeta is pictured lying in bed at University Hospital in Newark, with his father Aug. 11.

IRVINGTON, NJ — According to state Attorney Gen. Gurbir Grewal, Mayor Tony Vauss and Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers, the township suffered its fourth homicide of the year Thursday, Aug. 8. The incident involved the death of one victim in addition to the death of the shooter, who was killed by Irvington police officers at the Myrtle Avenue crime scene.

“The 20-year-old who was fatally shot is Jason Caudle of Irvington,” Attorney General’s Office spokesman Peter Aseltine said Aug. 13. “There is no other new information to release. The investigation is ongoing.”

While Vauss did not have more information regarding Caudle, he did say the homicide did not appear to be a random attack. 

“Unfortunately it does count as a homicide,” Vauss said Aug. 12. “But there’s nothing we can do to suppress that. It wasn’t random. He knew the guy he shot.”

On Aug. 8, Grewal announced that the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Task Force is conducting an investigation of the fatal officer-involved shooting that had occurred that morning at approximately 11:30 a.m. in the 300 block of Myrtle Avenue in Irvington.

According to Grewal, the shooter was identified as Kaizen Crossen, 39, of Irvington.

“Officers of the Irvington Police Department responded to a shooting in which a gunman shot and fatally wounded another civilian,” a release from the Attorney General’s Office read. “During the encounter with the gunman, three officers were shot and sustained injuries that were not life threatening. Multiple officers fired at the gunman, who was fatally wounded.

“Crossen, who was armed with a rifle, had shot and fatally wounded another civilian, a 20-year-old man. That man was not armed,” it continued. “When the first Irvington police officer arrived, he encountered Crossen and shots were exchanged. The officer was struck in the lower part of his legs. Additional Irvington officers arrived at the scene and multiple officers exchanged gunfire with Crossen.” 

Grewal said the shootout between Crossen and IPD cops ended with the shooter dead and three officers wounded, one seriously.

“Two officers suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds in those exchanges, and Crossen was fatally wounded,” the release read. “Crossen and the man he shot were taken to University Hospital in Newark, where they were pronounced dead. The three officers were also taken to University Hospital, where all were reported in stable condition.”

According to a recent state law sponsored by Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake from East Orange and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly from Paterson, the AG’s Office always has jurisdiction over any fatal police-involved shooting investigations in New Jersey. Accordingly, Grewal said the investigation into the Aug. 8 Irvington incident is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time.

However, Vauss and Bowers had plenty more to say about the Aug. 8 incident. Vauss said that, although three officers were wounded in the incident, 13 total IPD and PSD officers were involved, including: Special Officer Brandon Gaeta; Officers Amiri Ricketts, Bao Ho, Samuel Addo, Tahji Jackson, Shynell McCall and Olufemi Adedeji; Detectives Ronesa Youngblood, Pamela Mays and Chris Jenkins; and Sgts. Maurice Taylor, Brandis Puryear and Richard Santiago.

“The officers responded heroically in the face of danger. I am proud of them all,” Bowers said Aug. 12. “I’m also thankful that there were not more casualties during this incident. I’m praying for all of the families and officers who were negatively impacted by this event. Finally, I appreciate and thank all of the law enforcement agencies and first responders who assisted us.”

Vauss also said he was proud of how the police officers and PSD handled a deadly situation that could have potentially been much worse.

“Our police officers are hailed as heroes,” Vauss said. “They responded quickly to an incident, which is directly a part of the Summer Crime Initiative, which is why the response time was so incredible. Gaeta got shot in his ankle and he was grazed in his thigh. Two other officers were grazed by bullets.

“Gaeta’s still in the hospital because he has to have multiple surgeries on his leg and foot where he was hit,” Vauss continued. “Everyone else was released from the hospital. Absolutely there’s several counseling programs that they go to that I visited.” 

Though the state Attorney General’s Office is handling the investigation, Vauss contributed his own questions.

“The AG’s Office is still handling everything,” he said. “An interesting thing is the guy lived there on Myrtle Avenue. He wasn’t from someplace else. He got into some kind of confrontation with somebody in his building. Why would you need hundreds of rounds of ammo and body armor for one person?”