Grand jury declines to file charges against Newark police detective in Dorsey killing

NEWARK, NJ — A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Carl Dorsey III, 39, of South Orange, who was shot and fatally wounded by a Newark police detective just after midnight on Jan. 1, 2021, according to a Jan. 26 press release from the New Jersey attorney general’s office.

Dorsey’s death was investigated by the attorney general’s Office of Public Integrity & Accountability and presented to New Jersey residents serving on the grand jury in accordance with the Independent Prosecutor Directive of 2019. 

The investigation included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, review of video and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing the testimony and evidence, the grand jury concluded its deliberations Tuesday, Jan. 24, and voted “no bill,” meaning the grand jury concluded no criminal charges should be filed against Detective Rod Simpkins of the Newark Police Department, the officer who fired his service weapon.

Based on the investigation, the shooting occurred shortly after midnight on South 11th Street near Woodland Avenue in Newark. A group of 12 plainclothes detectives assigned to the Newark Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, who were on patrol detail for New Year’s Eve, responded in separate unmarked police vehicles to South 11th Street from Avon Avenue after hearing gunshots in that area. Simpkins was the rear seat passenger of the lead police vehicle as they turned onto South 11th Street. According to the detectives, as they approached in their vehicles, some of them observed muzzle flashes and individuals discharging and holding handguns. Simpkins immediately exited his vehicle with his service weapon drawn. According to Simpkins, his focus was on two individuals with guns located north of him, with whom he was about to engage. Simpkins was then physically struck from the side by an individual, later identified as Dorsey, which caused Simpkins to fall to the ground. According to the investigation, as Simpkins was falling to the ground, his service weapon discharged once, striking Dorsey, who was not armed with a weapon.

None of the detectives were equipped with body-worn cameras at the time of the incident. However, home surveillance footage captured Dorsey running across the street from west to east and colliding with Simpkins just after Simpkins exited his vehicle. Detectives rendered medical aid to Dorsey until EMS personnel arrived. Dorsey was transported to University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:37 a.m.

Shortly after Dorsey was shot, an individual whom officers saw pointing a gun was apprehended after the person discarded the gun at the scene on South 11th Street. That individual was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to fourth-degree pointing a firearm. A shell casing recovered from the scene matched the gun that was recovered near the person who was arrested. 

“A grand jury voted not to file any criminal charges after deliberations regarding the Newark police–involved shooting that killed Carl Dorsey III after midnight on Jan. 1, 2021,” Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said in a Jan. 27 statement. “Any time an unarmed person is killed, it’s a tragedy and painful for the victim’s family and his or her entire community. It is deeply troubling that more black and brown people find themselves in this situation across the country, as we have recently seen in Memphis. It’s appalling that someone who is unarmed can be killed in the street, and we are working hard to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the city of Newark.

“Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin’s investigation has been completed, and we are grateful for the community’s effort that helped to create an independent process that reviews all police-involved shootings. Now, the city of Newark will conduct our own investigation to ensure that our officers in this incident followed procedures properly and did not violate regulations. We will move swiftly and decisively to launch this investigation, as we could not do so until the state process had run its course. The officer under this investigation is no longer on active duty,” Baraka continued. “Finally, on behalf of the people of Newark, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to Mr. Dorsey’s family for their loss. This tragedy will not be forgotten. ” 

Angry over the state grand jury’s “no bill” vote, Larry Hamm, the founder and chairperson of the People’s Organization for Progress, held a press conference on Monday, Jan. 30, to condemn the decision and to announce further legal action. POP also marched for justice two days earlier on Jan. 28 for justice in the Dorsey case, the Tyre Nichols case and other similar cases.

“The decision by the grand jury in the Carl Dorsey case, in the face of indisputable evidence that he was unarmed when he was shot and killed by that officer, was a grave injustice,” Hamm said on Jan. 29. “We believe Mr. Dorsey’s civil rights were violated and call upon the U.S. attorney to launch an investigation.”

At the press conference, which was attended by Dorsey’s family, attorney Robert Tarver called upon U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger to launch a civil rights investigation into Dorsey’s death.