New Jersey’s attorney general released police dash-camera videos and 911 recordings of a series of incidents leading up to a fatal freeway shooting of a 28-year-old unarmed black man by a white state trooper last month.
The audio and video footage captured parts of the last 30 hours of Maurice S. Gordon’s life between May 22 and May 23, before he was shot multiple times by a New Jersey State Trooper after he jumped out of the rear of a patrol car on a busy Garden State Parkway in Bass River and the trooper allegedly tried to stop him from getting into the driver’s seat of the vehicle as traffic whizzed by within feet of them.
A dash-camera video shows the trooper, officials identified as Sgt. Randall Wetzel, in a hand-to-hand struggle with Gordon before six shots from Wetzel’s service weapon rang out and Gordon fell, gravely injured, to the ground.
The final hours of Gordon’s life were marked by a friend in Poughkeepsie, New York, calling a 911 dispatcher at 3:23 a.m. on May 22 and saying Gordon had just left his house “looking panicked” and saying “something about having a paranormal experience.”
In five separate episodes leading up to Gordon’s death, police had encounters with him, twice after finding him in his disabled car — once after he had run out of gas. New Jersey police also pulled him over twice for allegedly driving over 100 m.p.h., according to New Jersey State Attorney General Gurbir Singh Grewal.
Grewell said that he released the videos and 911 recordings in accordance with the state’s policy of making body-camera and dash-cam footage in deadly use-of-force incidents available once the initial investigation is “substantially complete.”
Gordon’s family and their attorney had demanded answers about the fatal shooting.
“I want the world to know my son is genuinely a lovely, lovely, lovely young man,” Gordon’s mother, Racquel Barrett, told ABC News during an interview on Sunday night. “Not hearing his voice is making me weak every day.”
The shooting occurred just two days before George Floyd died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when a white officer was caught on viral cellphone video digging his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, as the 47-year-old man repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.” The Floyd killing has set off days of protests and riots across the country.
“Our team of independent investigators has been working hard to complete the initial investigation into the shooting death of Maurice Gordon as quickly as possible. That initial investigation is now complete,” Grewal said in a statement before releasing the videos and 911 tapes.
Grewal said Gordon’s family was offered the opportunity to privately view the videos and hear the 911 calls before the material was released to the public.
Barrett, who flew to the United States from Great Britain following her son’s death, said Gordon was a student at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, where he was studying chemistry.
“He’s a person always into books and reading and studying and working as well,” Barrett said. ”He’s always contributing to society. ”
Grewal said that Sgt. Wetzel pulled over Gordon’s black Honda Civic at 6:26 a.m. on May 23, after clocking the car speeding down the Garden State Parkway at 110 m.p.h. He said that during the stop, Gordon’s vehicle became disabled and wouldn’t start, so Wetzel called for a tow truck.
Grewal said that as they waited for the tow truck to arrive, Wetzel invited Gordon to sit in the backseat of his patrol car.
Video from inside the vehicle showed Gordon unbuckling his seatbelt and trying to get out only to be told by Wetzel to stay put.
“I keep telling you to do not get out of the car, but you keep hopping out,” Wetzel told Gordon at one point, explaining that he was worried about him getting hit by a passing car.
“Why do you keep taking your seatbelt off?” Wetzel asked Gordon. “Just keep it on in case someone hits us from behind.”
At one point, Wetzel asked Gordon if he wanted to wear of face mask. When Gordon said he did, Wetzel got out of the vehicle and walked around to the rear passenger door to hand him one, according to the video footage.
But once he opened the door, Gordon unbuckled his seatbelt and bolted from the vehicle. Wetzel can be heard repeatedly yelling at Gordon to get back into the car. A rear-facing camera inside the vehicle captured the two men struggling outside before Gordon appears to break free and attempts to open the driver’s side door and get into the driver’s seat of the patrol car.
Wetzel deployed pepper spray on Gordon and pulled him away from the vehicle. As they tussled at the rear of the patrol car six shots rang out. The footage shows Gordon falling to the ground.
Wetzel is seen in the video handcuffing Gordon and yelling “shots fired” into his mobile radio and asking for EMTs to come to the scene.
Grewal said the investigation is continuing and that the evidence will be presented to a grand jury.
Barrett said that while she has heard about police shootings in the United States, she never feared that her son, who came to the United States with his father from Jamaica at the age of 18, would die that way.
“I think right now I’m in a nightmare,” she said. “This is a nightmare because this should have never happened to no one.”
This story has been updated to reflect the state of New Jersey’s policy regarding the release of police body- and dash-cam video.