Federal probes sought into fatal police killings in NJ

Photo by Chris Sykes People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Larry Hamm, right, stands with Regina Ashford, the mother of Kashad Ashford, who was shot and killed by Lyndhurst police. On Monday, Feb. 8, they were at the grassroots group's second Justice Monday protest rally, seeking to get the U.S. attorney for New Jersey to open federal investigations into the deaths of Abdul Kamal, Ashford and other unarmed black male suspects at the hands of local law enforcement.
Photo by Chris Sykes
People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Larry Hamm, right, stands with Regina Ashford, the mother of Kashad Ashford, who was shot and killed by Lyndhurst police. On Monday, Feb. 8, they were at the grassroots group’s second Justice Monday protest rally, seeking to get the U.S. attorney for New Jersey to open federal investigations into the deaths of Abdul Kamal, Ashford and other unarmed black male suspects at the hands of local law enforcement.

IRVINGTON, NJ — The People’s Organization for Progress held its second Justice Monday protest outside the Peter W. Rodino Federal Building in downtown Newark on Monday, Feb. 8, as part an ongoing effort to get U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman to start official investigations into several deaths involving police officers.

Specifically, POP is seeking investigations into the deaths of Abdul Kamal, who was shot and killed by Irvington police; Kashad Ashford, who was killed by Lyndurst police; Jerame Reid, who was killed by Bridgeton police; and 14-year-old Radazz Hearns, who was shot by Trenton police in August. Hearns was hospitalized after the shooting.

According to People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Larry Hamm, the group’s scheduled protests have already produced very positive, though limited, success.

“We’re going to be here every Monday to demand federal civil rights investigations into the deaths of Kashad Ashford and Abdul Kamal and the shooting of Radazz Hearns,” Hamm said on Monday, Feb. 8. “We were also demanding investigation for Jerame Reid, but the U.S. attorney and F.B.I. have started a federal investigation into the death of Jerame Reid. But we’re here today to say to the U.S. attorney: Don’t stop with Jerame Reid. Go to Irvington and investigate the murder of Abdul Kamal, shot 10 times with a cell phone in his hand; go to Lyndhurst (and) investigate the death of Kashad Ashford, shot four times in the head while he was unconscious. And don’t stop there. Go to Trenton and investigate the shooting of Radazz Hearns, a 14-year-old boy shot in the back four times.”

Hamm said, “If the shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina in the back was wrong, the shooting of Radazz Hearns four times in the back, 14 years old, that was wrong.”

According to media reports, the Scott shooting occurred on April 4, 2015, in North Charleston, S.C., following a daytime automobile traffic stop for a non-functioning brake light. Scott, who was black, was fatally shot by North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, who is white. Slager was subsequently charged with murder, after a video surfaced that showed Slager shooting the unarmed Scott from behind while Scott was fleeing.

The case was independently investigated by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are conducting their own investigations. On June 8, a grand jury indicted Slager on a charge of murder. He was released on bond in January and a trial is scheduled to begin in October.

Hamm said he would like to see similar results in the cases of Kamal, Ashford, Hearns and Reid.
“So we’re here to ask the U.S. attorney to launch federal probes into all of these cases here in New Jersey,” Hamm said. “I feel good about the Jerame Reid investigation. I feel good, but I’m cautious. An investigation is an investigation; it’s not a conviction. I won’t feel any good until the people that killed Jerame and Abdul and Kashad and the ones that shot Radazz … are convicted.”

Hamm admitted the U.S. attorney for New Jersey opening an official investigation in Reid’s case “is a step in the right direction,” adding, “That’s more than others have done around the state.”

Calls to Fishman’s office seeking comment and confirmation of an ongoing Reid investigation were not returned by press time this week. Ashford’s mother, Regina Ashford, said she was out in front of the Rodino building in Newark with Hamm and the rest of his People’s Organization for Progress members “looking for justice.”

“I’m glad that we got one investigation going. I’m looking forward to more. I’m looking for justice,” Regina Ashford said Monday, Feb. 8.

Reid’s surviving family members were also in downtown Newark for the protest, including his parents, Muneer Muhammad and Sheila Reid.

“They’re exceeding their authority and it must be a federal investigation because it seems no justice on the state level,” Muhammad said Monday, Feb. 8. “It’s just like, when you’re laying down a road, you must put down one brick at a time, but that’s a positive step. But you must not stop there; you must keep on going until you complete this thing.”

Muhammad said he wants to see changes in how police deal with unarmed suspects and he understands that “in order for change to come and this to stop, these officers must be held accountable and at a higher level.” He said that’s why it’s important for groups such as the POP to take to the streets to advocate for change.

Reid agreed with Muhammad. Jerame Reid was shot and killed by Bridgeton police Dec. 30, 2014. A video shows Reid ignoring police orders to stop moving and remain inside the vehicle he was riding in with another passenger, Leroy Tutt. When he attempted to exit the vehicle against the officers’ orders, they opened fire and killed him. No weapon was found on Reid’s body.

“I just want justice for my son,” Reid said Monday, Feb. 8. “I want the two officers that murdered my son … to be accountable for what they did to my son. My son was not supposed to be shot down like a dog. He was a criminal. He served his 13 years and he was on the street. I feel it wasn’t fair that they shot my son, all because of a routine traffic stop, and he didn’t have a weapon.”

Reid said her son “was not an imminent death threat to the officers, so there was no reason for them to shoot him. … I believe this was a personal vendetta against my son and I want justice done. I am happy they’re making one step by starting an investigation. It’s not a conviction. It’s not an indictment. But it’s a step.”
Muhammad said it’s a step in the right direction.

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