Lawyer: Good Cops Must Speak up About Officer’s Killing of an Unarmed Man

A lawyer for the family of a man shot and killed by police in Vineland on Saturday is calling on cops at the scene that day to step forward and report what really happened.

The officer who shot and killed Rashaun Washington apparently didn’t follow state guidelines for use of deadly force, according to attorney Andaiye Al-Uqdah.

Police responded to East Wood Street for a report of a man on a porch acting suspiciously.

Bystander video shows police with guns drawn and shouting orders at the shirtless Washington. Following an encounter that lasts several minutes, during which Washington paces back and forth, he starts running in the direction of the officers and three gunshots are heard.

A water bottle and a T-shirt
Washington, 37, of Bridgeton was unarmed, holding only a water bottle and his shirt during the incident, Al-Uqdah said.

Even though officers knew he was unarmed, police did not try to approach or restrain him, she said.

“Eyewitnesses have provided credible statements indicating that Mr. Washington posed no imminent threat to officers that could justify the use of deadly force,” she said. “Had the officers involved with this shooting properly followed the Attorney General’s guidelines on the use of force, this horrible incident could have been abated and Mr. Washington would be alive today.”

Police union officials did not respond to requests for comment about Al-Uqdah’s assertions.

Authorities have not confirmed that Washington was unarmed. They also have not named the officer who fired, though Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae did say Monday that only one cop fired and that he has been placed on paid administrative leave, per Vineland Police Department police, while the case is investigated.

Here’s what the policy says
Under state Attorney General use of force guidelines, an officer may use deadly force “when the officer reasonably believes such action is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.”

Deadly force is also allowed to prevent the escape of a suspect if the officer believes the suspect caused or attempted to cause harm to someone or will pose “an imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm should the escape succeed.”

Officers are instructed to consider non-lethal means first.

“… a law enforcement officer shall not resort to the use of deadly force if the officer reasonably believes that an alternative to the use of deadly force will avert or eliminate an imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm, and achieve the law enforcement purpose at no increased risk to the officer or another person.”

What we don’t know
A witness said Washington was sitting on the porch of the duplex and refused to leave. He claimed he knew someone who lived in one of the units.

Authorities have not confirmed these details or another witness claim that on officer yelled “bomb” before shots were fired.

In addition, officials have not said what Washington was doing that was deemed suspicious and have not confirmed what he said to officers prior to the shooting.

Under state guidelines, the county prosecutor’s office is investigating this police-involved shooting and will issue a report. The state Attorney General’s Office will sign off on the conclusions reached in the investigation.

Under the Open Public Records Act, New Jersey Advance Media has requested body camera and dashboard camera video, as well as police dispatch communications related to the incident. The prosecutor’s office is reviewing that request.

Good officers must step up
Al-Uqdah called on officers who were on the scene that day to step forward and provide information about what really happened.

“It is our hope that if there’s any officer present who did not participate in this unprovoked shooting, he or she will provide to internal affairs the truth behind this senseless murder of this young man by those responsible officers.”

Bad cops who aren’t held accountable sully the reputation of the good officers who protect and serve, she said.

“The brave police officers around the nation will continue to be tarnished and subjected to suspicion and distrust if the officers who kill unjustifiably go protected and unchecked.”


Bystander video below:

Here is an edited clip of the fatal shooting:

Below is the unedited bodycam video: