AG: Recordings Of Fatal NJSP Shooting During Violent GSP Struggle Show Pepper Spray Didn’t Work

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A New Jersey State Police sergeant who first used pepper spray to try and stop a Poughkeepsie man who assaulted him on a shoulder of the Garden State Parkway finally shot him to subdue him, authorities on Monday said dash cam video shows.

NJSP Troop D Sgt. Randall Wetzel was identified Monday as the trooper who fatally shot Maurice Gordon, 28, during a vicious struggle on the parkway in Bass River on May 23.

In addition to identifying Wetzel by name, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal released several audio and video recordings related to the shooting.

They involve a series of events, including interactions that Gordon had with law enforcement in Brick, Waretown, Stafford and, ultimately, Bass River in Burlington County.

The recordings are contained in 12 files posted online: CLICK HERE FOR THE FILES

Grewal provided this summary of the events, from an initial call from a friend who was concerned about Gordon’s whereabouts to the fatal encounter:

The recordings begin with a 911 call directed to Poughkeepsie police a day earlier from a friend of Gordon’s who said he was worried about his welfare.

Maurice Gordon

InsiderNJ.com

Nearly 24 hours later, an off-duty Red Bank police officer found Gordon with his car, which was out of gas and stopped in the middle lane of the southbound GSP near Exit 91 in Brick.

They were joined by an off-duty NJSP trooper who was on his way to work.

A trooper who was on duty then arrived, set out flares and left before doubling back and finding Gordon with a tow truck driver.

About an hour and 45 minutes later, a different trooper pulled up behind Gordon’s car, which was now stopped in the left lane of the southbound parkway near Exit 72 in Waretown.

The trooper “called a tow truck, set out flares, and then departed.”

In the interim, a civilian vehicle pulled up and gave Gordon a ride to a Wawa in Barnegat. A store surveillance camera shows them entering the store.

Gordon returned to his car and headed south on the parkway.

Another NJSP trooper stopped Gordon a short time later for doing over 100 mph on the southbound parkway near Exit 62 in Stafford.

Gordon got a summons and kept going – only to be stopped by Wetzel minutes later for doing 110 mph near Exit 50 in Bass River.

That’s where the fatal confrontation occurred.

According to Grewal:

“Wetzel started to write a ticket for Mr. Gordon….During the stop, Mr. Gordon’s vehicle became disabled in the left shoulder and Sgt. Wetzel called a tow truck.

“While they waited for the tow truck to arrive, Sgt. Wetzel asked Mr. Gordon if he would prefer to sit in the back seat of Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle, and Mr. Gordon stated that he would.

“After a total of approximately 21 minutes inside Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle, Mr. Gordon exited the vehicle when Sgt. Wetzel attempted to offer him a mask, resulting in a confrontation with Sgt. Wetzel.

“During this confrontation, Mr. Gordon attempted to enter the driver seat of Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle on two occasions.

“After the first occasion, Sgt. Wetzel deployed oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray.

“After the second occasion, Sgt. Wetzel removed Mr. Gordon from the vehicle and, after a physical struggle on the left shoulder of the southbound Parkway, Sgt. Wetzel shot and killed Mr. Gordon with his service weapon.

“Sgt. Wetzel fired six times and then placed handcuffs on Mr. Gordon.

“At approximately 7:25 a.m., a State Trooper attempted to provide aid to Mr. Gordon, but did not detect a pulse.

“Shortly thereafter, a second State Trooper attempted to administer aid. EMS arrived at the scene at approximately 7:28 a.m. and pronounced Mr. Gordon deceased.”

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner hadn’t yet completed an autopsy report as of Wednesday, Grewal said.

“Once that report is complete, the findings will be shared with Mr. Gordon’s immediate family,” he said.

It will also become part of a continuing investigation of the circumstances by Grewal’s Shooting Response Task Force.

State law requires that the Attorney General’s Office conduct investigations of a person’s death when it happens “occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody.”

Grewal said he released the recordings under a directive that he issued last year that requires doing so when requested in a use-of-force law enforcement incident “once the initial phase of the investigation is substantially complete.”

That ordinarily takes 20 days, he said.

“Under state law and the Independent Prosecutor Directive, when the entire investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury, typically consisting of 16 to 23 citizens, to make the ultimate decision regarding whether criminal charges will be filed,” the attorney general said.

It remained unclear Monday when that might be.

The state Administrative Office of the Courts has temporarily suspended the convening of grand juries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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