TRENTON – The Attorney General’s Office today released video and audio recordings related to the shooting on May 23, 2020 in Paterson, N.J., in which Passaic County Sheriff’s Officers fatally shot Christopher Clark, 36, of Paterson.

The Attorney General’s Office today also released the identity of the sheriff’s officers who fired at Mr. Clark. They are Sgt. Americo Escobar, Sgt. Helman Fava, and Sgt. Jose Vargas of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office.

The shooting remains under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. However, the recordings are being released pursuant to Attorney General Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive,” which governs use-of-force investigations in New Jersey and requires that such records, if requested, be released to the public once the initial phase of the investigation is substantially complete.Members of Mr. Clark’s family and a representative viewed the video recordings on Monday, June 15.

The shooting occurred at approximately 1:16 a.m. on May 23, 2020 on 16th Avenue in Paterson, between Straight Street and Summer Street. The three sheriff’s officers responded in a marked patrol vehicle at approximately 1:10 a.m. after gunshots were detected by a ShotSpotter on Park Avenue. When the sheriff’s officers arrived in the vicinity, they observed Mr. Clark on foot on Summer Street. As officers approached Mr. Clark, he ran and the officers pursued him onto 16th Avenue. During the encounter on 16th Avenue, the three sheriff’s officers fired at Mr. Clark.Mr. Clark was fatally wounded.He was pronounced dead at the scene. A loaded .45-caliber pistol was recovered near Mr. Clark.

The recordings are contained in 10 files, which have been posted online. Click here for files. To facilitate their review, the files are numbered and described briefly below.

File Details

The information at the following link is being made public pursuant to the Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-3.b., which lists specific criminal investigatory information that must be disclosed:
http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases20/Clark_3B_Form_5-23-20-(OPRA).pdf

The investigation is being conducted pursuant to a state law enacted in January 2019 (P.L.2019, c.1), which requires that the Attorney General’s Office conduct investigations of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody.

The investigation is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time. Under state law and the Independent Prosecutor Directive, when the entire investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury, typically consisting of 16 to 23 citizens, to make the ultimate decision regarding whether criminal charges will be filed. The Administrative Office of the Courts has temporarily suspended the convening of grand juries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The investigation is being conducted in compliance with procedures and requirements established in the Independent Prosecutor Directive, which is available at this link:
https://www.nj.gov/oag/excellence/docs/2019-4_Independent_Prosecutor_Directive.pdf

The Independent Prosecutor Directive, issued by Attorney General Grewal in December 2019, outlines a 10-step process for conducting independent investigations of use-of-force and death-in-custody incidents in compliance with state law. The directive establishes clear procedures governing such investigations to ensure that they are done fully, fairly, and independently of any potential bias. A summary of that 10-step process is available at this link:
https://www.nj.gov/oag/excellence/docs/The-Independent-Prosecutor-Directive.pdf

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