New Jersey law requires that all civilian deaths involving police be investigated and presented to a grand jury no matter the circumstances.
Grand jurors in this case had plenty of evidence supporting the Nov. 6, 2021 shooting death of Mark D. Walker II, 34, of Woodbridge, Virginia, after a nine-hour standoff.
A Monmouth County prosecutor's detective was trying to serve a warrant that day when Walker shot him in the leg and barricaded himself inside a Chelsea Avenue apartment with his 2-week-old infant.
A tactical team was summoned, streets were closed and people were urged to remain inside as TV news choppers circled overhead. NJ Transit, which has tracks nearby, suspended rail service between Little Silver and Long Branch.
Walker “expressed his desire to surrender” while talking with negotiators and was “provided with directions about how to do so safely,” New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said on Tuesday, May 23.
Plans were made for a family member to collect the baby, after which Walker would surrender, the attorney general said.
Talks continued for several hours, with Walker repeatedly promising to surrender and then reneging, Platkin said.
Around 2 a.m., Walker set a fire in the apartment, then came running out with the infant in his arms, the attorney general said.
“As he ran out of the burning building, Mr. Walker fired several rounds from a handgun in the officers’ direction and struck a BearCat vehicle parked in the roadway,” Platkin said.
Returning fire were three members of the Monmouth County Emergency Response Team: Manalapan Officer Eric Voorand, Howell Township Officer Daniel Murphy and Middletown Township Officer Omar Akel.
Walker was pronounced dead at the scene. The infant wasn’t injured. The wounded detective was treated at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune and released sometime later.
Despite the clear and obvious circumstances, both state law and his own guidelines require Platkin to investigate deaths that occur “during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody."
The guidelines guarantee that the investigation is done “in a full, impartial and transparent manner."
Part of the process included releasing audio and video recordings from the incident. These can be found here: Walker Shooting (Nov. 6, 2021)
The results of an investigation by Platkin’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) were presented to the grand jury.
These included “interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, and a review of body-worn camera footage, video surveillance, motor vehicle recording footage, and autopsy results from the medical examiner,” the attorney general said.
The grand jurors concluded deliberations by voting a “no bill” – meaning no law enforcement action should be taken against the officers, he said.
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