The mayor of a New Jersey city defended on Friday the local prosecutor’s investigation into a traffic stop that culminated with police fatally shooting a man with his hands up, rejecting calls for a state or federal inquiry.
Jerame Reid was killed on Dec. 30 in the city of Bridgeton after the driver of the car he was in was pulled over for not stopping at a stop sign. The two police officers who approached the car became alarmed and pulled out their guns after one of them says he sees a gun in the car’s glove compartment.
Video recorded by a police dashboard camera of the tense encounter shows one of the officers reaching into the car and removing what appears to be a gun. A few moments later, Reid exited the car with his apparently empty hands up at shoulder height, and both officers almost immediately shot at him.
“I cringe every time I see the video but the public’s right to know outweighed delaying, delaying, delaying,” Albert Kelly, the mayor of Bridgeton, said at a news conference. The video was released on Tuesday over the Bridgeton police department’s objections in response to a local newspaper’s request under freedom of information laws.
He said he was confident in the “integrity” of the Cumberland County prosecutor’s office, which is investigating the shooting. “We do not believe it is necessary for the state attorney general to take control,” he said, referring to calls made by Reid’s family and some civil-rights activists, including the Reverend Al Sharpton.
Some have seen parallels in Reid’s death with cases in Missouri and New York City last year in which police officers killed unarmed black men, prompting waves of nationwide protests.
Reid was black, as is the police officer who led the encounter. The other police officer who was at the scene is white.
Richard Smith, the president of the New Jersey chapter of the civil-rights group the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, joined the mayor and local religious leaders in supporting the prosecutor’s investigation.
Bridgeton Police Chief Mark Ott declined specific questions about the shooting at the news conference but offered a general defense of his officers.
“We humans have emotions,” he said. “Emotions aren’t that easy to control. At times you have fear. Some people have anger. We can train people every day, all year long, and they’re still going to have human emotions.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)