UPDATE: Police in South Jersey had no choice but to shoot a Pennsylvania man who rushed at them with a broken bottle, a grand jury has found.
Grand jurors had crystal-clear bodycam video of officers alternately imploring and commanding Amir Johnson, 30, to drop the bottle during a late-afternoon standoff in the middle of an Atlantic County highway in August 2020.
“We don't wanna do this, man. Stop! Stop!" a Ventnor police officer shouts over and over in the video.
“Put it down, bro, we don’t wanna do this,” another officer yells.
Johnson, of Wilkes-Barre, keeps coming, however, and is only feet away when he’s shot.
He died at a local hospital nearly two hours later.
CLICK HERE for the clips: Amir Johnson shooting
New Jersey law requires a grand jury review of all deaths that occur during or immediately after contact with police, no matter the circumstances.
Ventnor and Atlantic City police had responded to a 911 call of a man behaving “erratically” at the corner of Wellington Avenue and West End Avenue shortly after 4 p.m. on Aug. 6, 2020.
They found Johnson “walking in and out of a marshy area along the roadway while holding a broken glass bottle,” Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin said.
He ”had self-inflicted lacerations on his arms and neck, and was bleeding from his neck,” the attorney general said.
The officers tried to help him, as the video shows, but Johnson refused repeated requests and then commands to drop the bottle.
He continued to walk back and forth on the roadway, where Platkin said officers had stopped traffic for safety reasons.
“Officers continued to speak with Mr. Johnson, who was threatening to inflict additional self-harm, for several minutes,” the attorney general said. “One officer was armed with a taser and attempted to deploy it, however, this was unsuccessful.”
Eventually, Johnson “was in close proximity to a vehicle occupied by civilians when he rapidly advanced at officers with the broken bottle in his hand,” Platkin said. “Three officers fired their weapons, fatally wounding him.”
Johnson was taken to by ambulance to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s Atlantic City Campus, where he was pronounced dead around 6 p.m.
State law requires Platkin's office to investigate all deaths that occur in New Jersey “during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody," no matter what the circumstances are.
The guidelines guarantee that the investigation by the attorney general's Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) is done “in a full, impartial and transparent manner," removing politics or personal agendas.
Once the investigation is complete, the results are presented to a grand jury.
In this case, grand jurors reviewed witness interviews, forensic evidence, video footage and autopsy results.
They concluded deliberations on Monday by returning a “no bill,” meaning the actions of Ventnor Police Officers Michael Arena, Pierluigi Mancuso and Robert Scarborough were justified, Platkin said.
“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,” the attorney general noted.
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