State grand jury declines to criminally charge officers involved in fatal police encounter in Irvington

IRVINGTON, NJ — A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Kaizen Crossen, 39, of Irvington, who was fatally shot in August 2019 during a firefight with officers of the Irvington Police Department, according to a July 15 press release from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. As required by statute, all fatal officer-involved shootings must be presented to a grand jury. According to security video, and civilian and police witnesses here, Crossen repeatedly fired a rifle at officers — wounding two of them — after the officers responded to multiple 9-1-1 calls that Crossen had fatally shot another man.

The officer-involved shooting was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and presented to a panel of New Jersey residents called to serve on the grand jury. The investigation included interviews of witnesses; collection of forensic evidence; review of security video; and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury concluded its deliberations on Tuesday, July 13, and voted “no bill,” meaning a majority of grand jurors found the actions of the officers who shot Crossen were justified and no charges should be filed against them.

While the shooting occurred in August 2019, the grand jury was only recently able to meet due to COVID-19 restrictions. OPIA has said it will now proceed with presenting evidence to grand juries in several completed investigations of fatal police encounters that were pending due to the pandemic.  

Crossen’s shooting occurred on Aug. 8, 2019. The investigation revealed that the shooting occurred at approximately 11:30 a.m. in the 300 block of Myrtle Avenue when police responded to multiple 9-1-1 calls about a shooting and a man down. Crossen, who was armed with a rifle, had shot and fatally wounded another civilian, a 20-year-old man. That man was not armed. 

When the officers arrived, they encountered Crossen and shots were exchanged. Two officers suffered non–life-threatening gunshot wounds in those exchanges, and Crossen was fatally wounded. Crossen was transported to University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy revealed that Crossen died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds to his shoulder and thigh. Because all of the officers carried the same caliber weapon, a ballistics analysis was unable to determine which officer or officers fired the fatal shots. 

A security camera at a nearby residence captured video of the shooting. It showed Crossen walking down Myrtle Avenue armed with a long rifle before returning to a detached garage behind 364-366 Myrtle Ave. and retrieving an army fatigue vest filled with ammunition. The video showed Crossen exchanging gunfire with the responding police officers for several minutes. Crossen, visibly injured, walked down an alley in the direction of officers still armed with his rifle. After Crossen fell to the ground, he stood up again and grabbed for his rifle before collapsing, fatally injured. 

A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the attorney general’s office to conduct investigations of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody. It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved.

After considering the facts, evidence and testimony from the OPIA investigation, the state grand jury found the actions of the officers were justified. An officer may use deadly force in New Jersey when the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.