State Grand Jury Declines to Criminally Charge Officer in Connection with Fatal Police-Involved Shooting in Elizabeth on July 29, 2023

For Immediate Release: March 20, 2024

Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
Office of Public Integrity and Accountability
– Thomas J. Eicher, Executive Director

For Further Information:

Media Inquiries-
Dan Prochilo

TRENTON — A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Estiben Alegria-Hurtado, 42, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, who was fatally shot by an officer from the Elizabeth Police Department on July 29, 2023.

Mr. Alegria-Hurtado’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. 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 witness interviews, photographs, review of home surveillance footage, body-worn camera footage, ballistics results, and autopsy findings from the medical examiner. This evidence, including video of the incident, was presented to the state grand jury. After hearing the testimony and evidence, the jurors deliberated on March 18, 2024, and voted “no bill,” concluding that no criminal charges should be filed against Officer Steven Lazo of the Elizabeth Police Department.

According to the investigation, on July 29 at 7:59 a.m., members of the Elizabeth Police responded to a 911 call regarding an unwanted individual at a multifamily residence on Amity Street in Elizabeth. At approximately 8:04 a.m., police arrived on the scene. At the time officers entered and walked to the rear of the home, two males were attempting to restrain Mr. Alegria-Hurtado. As the officers approached, Mr. Alegria-Hurtado, who was in possession of a knife and in close proximity to a female, either broke free or was let go by the males, and grabbed the woman by her hair and raised the knife above his shoulder. At 8:05 a.m., Officer Lazo discharged his firearm once, striking Mr. Alegria-Hurtado in the chest. Authorities recovered the knife near Mr. Algeria-Hurtado.

Officers rendered aid to Mr. Algeria-Hurtado, who was transported by emergency medical personnel to University Hospital in Newark. He was later pronounced deceased at 11:26 p.m. on Sunday, July 30.

An audio recording of a 911 call and footage from police body-worn cameras capturing the events surrounding the shooting were previously released. Those recordings are available here:

N.J.S.A. 52:17B-107(a)(2) 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

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