TRENTON — A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Hui Zhang, 33, of Pensacola, Florida, who was fatally shot by a Paterson police detective on October 10, 2022.
Mr. Zhang’s death was investigated by the 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 (the “Directive”). 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, photographs, review of surveillance camera footage, ballistics testing from the New Jersey State Police, and autopsy results from the medical examiner. This evidence, including the video of the incident, was presented to a state grand jury. After hearing the testimony and evidence, the grand jury concluded its deliberations on November 13, 2023, and voted “no bill,” meaning jurors concluded no criminal charges should be filed against Detective Victor Lora of the Paterson Police Department.
According to the investigation, on October 10, 2022, at 4:12 p.m., Mr. Zhang drove his vehicle into three other automobiles in the area of Straight and Van Houten streets in Paterson. Mr. Zhang ran from the scene. As he fled, he attempted to carjack multiple other vehicles, armed with what appeared to be a handgun, firing the pistol. Detective Lora pursued Mr. Zhang on foot. Detective Lora was on duty but on a personal errand and in plain clothes; because of his assignment, he was not equipped with a body-worn camera. The detective encountered Mr. Zhang on Van Houten Street, as Mr. Zhang was attempting to remove a civilian from the driver’s side of a vehicle. Detective Lora ordered Mr. Zhang to drop the apparent firearm he had in his hand. According to multiple witnesses, Mr. Zhang pointed what appeared to be a handgun at Detective Lora. In response, Detective Lora fired his weapon, striking Mr. Zhang, who was pronounced deceased at the scene at approximately 4:23 p.m. Mr. Zhang’s weapon was recovered. The New Jersey State Police Ballistics Unit tested the weapon and determined it was a 9-mm P.A.K. Zoraki semiautomatic “blank” pistol (i.e., an imitation firearm capable of producing a muzzle flash and replicating the sound of a gunshot).
Footage from four surveillance cameras that depicted the events surrounding the shooting were previously released. Those recordings are posted online: https://njoag.box.com/s/qvdwm2pzgazpxnjsy40cnz3nwa9h57nj
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, including criminal homicide 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 and is available here: Independent Prosecutor Directive
OPIA’s standard operating procedures for grand jury presentations of investigations involving fatal police encounters are also posted on the Attorney General’s website, and are available here: OPIA Grand Jury SOPs