Family Claims AG Won’t Hand Over Video Showing Son Shot Dead by Police


NEWARK — Dashcam video from a 2014 fatal police shooting in Rutherford screened Friday by the state attorney general’s office was “an insult to the family” that revealed little about what actually happened, said the mother and grandmother of the Newark man who was killed.

“If you were going to show us something, show us what happened,” said Cecille Hepburn, whose grandson, Kashad Ashford, 23, was fatally shot after striking a guardrail in Rutherford at the end of a police chase.

The family vowed to continue its fight to get at what really happened, including pursuing other, more revealing tapes that they believe must exist.

A year after the shooting, a state grand jury declined to indict four officers who fired their weapons into the stolen SUV driven by Ashford, which had crashed into a guardrail on a Route 3 overpass, before police said it backed into a patrol car while trying to flee.

Two Lyndhurst officers, a Rutherford officer and a State Police trooper armed with a shotgun fired more than a dozen rounds, according to a report by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team, which found that the officers acted legally in the Sept. 16, 2014 incident.

The case prompted a protracted legal battle in which Ashford’s family and local news media sought the release of dashcam videotapes recorded by responding officers, which culminated with a state Supreme Court decision on Wednesday siding with the family.

That decision, written by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, is what prompted Hepburn and her daughter-in-law, Regina Ashford, Kashad’s mother, to travel to Trenton on Friday to the state Department of Law and Public Safety to view what they thought would be the final moments of his life and just how it ended.

Instead, what they saw were three video clips of the aftermath of the shooting, recorded by dashcams from officers who arrived later, said Hepburn, Ashford and a civil rights advocate who accompanied them.

“I was expecting to see the killing of my son,” said Ashford, who lives in Newark. “I was expecting to see the chase that put him in harm’s way. The three tapes I’ve seen had nothing to do with that. Nothing at all. I didn’t understand it. I was lost.”

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, Peter Aseltine, did not respond to questions Friday afternoon about the videotapes shown to the family earlier that day.

The family said copies of the tapes were not provided to them.

Essentially, Hepburn said, the tapes showed a relatively quiet scene that included “a lot of cops just walking around, talking,” with some audio from police radios.

The audio included lines, “one in custody, one down.” At one point, she said, “One cop hollers, ‘Be careful, the car’s in gear,'” said Hepburn, who lives in Franklin Township in Somerset County. “Somebody asks, ‘Did you fire?’ He said, ‘No. I didn’t fire.’ And there was another who said, ‘One fled, one ran, so I shot.'”

The 2015 attorney general’s report of the incident found that Ashford went lifeless behind the wheel after he was shot, and that the one passenger in the SUV was removed from the vehicle by officers.

That passenger, Jemmaine T. Bynes, 31, of East Orange, reclined his seat and avoided being hit. Bynes was later shot dead in an unrelated incident.

People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Lawrence Hamm, a veteran civil rights activist who has monitored several police shootings, said he was as mystified as Ashford’s mother and grandmother by the tapes he and the family were shown.

All three said the tapes were so banal they had to assume there was other, more incriminating video that the state had fought to keep secret, and the family vowed to press its fight to get at what really happened.

“It is definitely suspicious, because they’ve been to court three times,” Hepburn said. “No one fights that hard for what we’ve just seen today.”