BAYONNE — A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Lee Waskiewicz, 47, of Bayonne, N.J. who was shot and fatally wounded by two Bayonne police officers on June 7, 2021.
Waskiewcz’s death was investigated by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to New Jersey residents serving on the grand jury in accordance with the Independent Prosecutor Directive of 2019. In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the directive.
The investigation included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, review of video and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing the testimony and evidence, the grand jury concluded its deliberations Monday, January 30, 2023, and voted “no bill,” meaning the grand jury concluded no criminal charges should be filed against Bayonne Police Officers Edward Taveras and Timothy Ballance Jr.
According to the investigation, uniformed officers of the Bayonne Police Department responded to a 9-1-1 call made at approximately 6:30 a.m. reporting a domestic disturbance at a residence in the first block of West 1st Street. When officers arrived, they met a resident, who spoke to them about Mr. Waskiewicz. The resident escorted the officers into the home and called Mr. Waskiewicz down from the third floor. Upon seeing the police officers, Mr. Waskiewicz went back upstairs and out of sight in the doorway of an attic. When Officer Taveras asked Mr. Waskiewicz to come down to talk to him, Mr. Waskiewicz yelled for the officers to leave and threatened to stab them. Mr. Waskiewicz came back to the stairs armed with a knife. The officers ordered Mr. Waskiewicz to put the knife down. Mr. Waskiewicz repeatedly told the officers to get away from him while he sat in a chair with the knife. He threatened to stab the officers to death if they approached him. He then rose from the chair and walked to the top of the stairs with the knife still in his hand stating, “Do it, shoot, go ahead, right now, shoot” while advancing toward Ofc. Taveras. As Mr. Waskiewicz came down the stairs both Ofcs. Taveras and Ballance fired their weapons, fatally wounding Mr. Waskiewicz.
The officers were equipped with body-worn cameras at the time of the incident. The recordings were previously released and included video footage from the body-worn cameras of three Bayonne police officers, including Officers Taveras and Ballance, and an audio recording of the 9-1-1 call. The recordings are posted online: Click here for the recordings.
Officers rendered medical aid until emergency medical personnel arrived and transported Mr. Waskiewicz to Bayonne Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased at approximately 7:43 a.m.
A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the Attorney General’s Office to 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. It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved. The grand jury is instructed on the elements of the potential criminal offenses that could be brought and, as required by statutes, the grand jury is instructed on self-defense and other forms of legal justification.
A conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation. Prior to presentation to the grand jury, the investigation was reviewed by OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations in the SOPs.
At the conclusion of these investigations, pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any principal should be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for administrative review in accordance with the AG’s Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures. OPIA monitors any resulting review and takes such actions as are necessary to ensure that the review is completed in a timely fashion, and that appropriate actions are taken based on the results of the review.
The Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website at this link:
Further information about how fatal police encounters are investigated in New Jersey under the directive is found at this link: