What to Know
- The Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office determined a police officer who shot and killed Rashaun Washington, 37, in 2018, was justified.
- Washington can be heard telling police he wanted to die in a body cam video of the incident, investigators said.
- Washington's father told NBC10 he had struggled with addiction and had just left a halfway house four months before his death.
More than a year after a man was shot and killed by a police officer in Vineland, New Jersey, following a 30-minute standoff that was caught on body camera, the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office concluded that the officer's use of force was legally justified.
“The CCPO determined that it is not necessary to present this matter to the Grand Jury because there were no material facts in dispute regarding the lawfulness of the use of force,” a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office wrote Thursday.
The incident took place on July 14, 2018, on West Wood Street. Vineland Police received a call from a resident shortly before 11:30 a.m. that day reporting that a man, later identified as 37-year-old Rashaun Washington, was outside with no shirt on and refusing to leave the property. Police arrived and spotted Washington standing in the middle of a driveway outside the home.
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Washington refused to identify himself when asked by the officers, according to investigators. Police also said they spotted a white t-shirt wrapped around an unknown object in Washington’s hands. Washington refused to put down the object, investigators said.
“You’re going to have to kill me,” Washington says in a body cam video later released by investigators.
“Nobody wants to kill you,” an officer replies.
More officers arrived at the scene as the standoff continued. Police said Washington began to pace back and forth while refusing to put down the unknown object. Washington then told them they would have to shoot him in the head or else he would pull the pin from the object and they would “all die,” implying that he had a grenade in his hand.
Investigators said the officers, who were about 20 feet away from Washington, tried to calm him down and get him to lower the object but he still refused. In the body cam video, Washington is heard saying, “I’m going to die right here, right now.”
One officer then spotted passengers inside a nearby vehicle in the driveway and safely got them out as the others continued talking to Washington.
Washington told police he had escaped from a hospital, stole a car and “let his kids go” earlier in the day to which an officer replied that his children needed him to be alive for them, investigators said. One of the officers then observed what he believed to be a yellow object, possibly a knife, sticking out of the t-shirt in Washington’s hands.
Washington then appeared to get more agitated and started to pace faster while stating he was going to run at an officer, police said. One officer raised a rifle toward Washington and told him to stay back. Washington then once again threatened to make the object in his hand explode, according to investigators.
The standoff then lasted for another seven minutes as the officers again asked Washington to put down the object, investigators said. One of the officers who did not have a weapon then spoke to Washington in an attempt to calm him down as a crowd of more than a dozen bystanders observed.
At 11:55 a.m., about 30 minutes after police initially arrived, Washington began pacing and walking closer to the officers, investigators said. One of the officers shouted to Washington to step back several times and told him, “Don’t make me shoot you.”
Washington then charged toward the officer and got within about eight feet of him, police said. The officer then fired his rifle three times, striking Washington in the shoulder, abdomen and forearm. Another officer released his K-9. The dog clamped down on Washington’s thigh with its mouth.
Washington continued to crawl toward the officer while holding the unknown object, police said. A third officer then used pepper spray on Washington as he struggled to avoid police restraint, according to investigators.
The officers then removed the K-9 from Washington and handcuffed him. Police said they tried to apply pressure to Washington’s gunshot wounds. They then discovered the object Washington was holding in the t-shirt was a pair of garden shears, police said.
Medics arrived and Washington was placed in an ambulance at 11:58 a.m. He was taken to Inspira Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 12:30 p.m.
Investigators said the officers’ accounts were consistent with the body cam footage. Through analysis, they determined the officer had a “reasonable belief that discharging his rifle was necessary to protect himself, other officers and bystanders.” The investigation was conducted by the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office and reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office.
Washington, a father of two, struggled with addiction and had moved out of a halfway home four months prior to his death, according to his father. His father told NBC10 his son struggled to find a job while also trying to reconnect with his children.