TRENTON – A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Hasani Best, 39, of Asbury Park, N.J., who died when an officer of the Asbury Park Police Department fired his service weapon at Mr. Best on August 21, 2020, in Asbury Park, N.J. The Attorney General’s Office previously released the identity of the police officer who fired at Mr. Best. The officer is Sgt. Sean De Shader.
The fatal police encounter was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to New Jersey residents called to serve on the grand jury in accordance with Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive,” issued in 2019. In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (“SOPs”) to ensure that these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, and with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the Independent Prosecutor Directive.
The investigation of this fatal police encounter included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, review of video footage, as well as autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury concluded its deliberations Monday, October 31, 2022, and voted “no bill” meaning the grand jury determined that the actions of Sgt. De Shader should not result in charges against him.
According to the investigation, at approximately 9:14 p.m., a citizen called 9-1-1 and reported that her neighbor was engaged in a physical altercation. Asbury Park Officers arrived, and were met by a witness who reported that Mr. Best had assaulted the witness and that he was inside the residence, in possession of a knife. When Asbury Park Police officers entered the residence, Mr. Best was armed with a knife in his hand and retreated into a bedroom. Officers made repeated attempts to convince Mr. Best to drop the knife and exit the bedroom. He failed to do so. Various officers of the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office arrived to assist, one of whom was armed with a Conduced Energy Device (“CED” or Taser). At one point, Mr. Best opened the bedroom door and walked out armed with the knife. A Monmouth County Sheriff’s Officer deployed the CED, but it was not effective on Mr. Best, who again retreated to the bedroom. For approximately the next 40 minutes, officers continued to ask Mr. Best to drop the knife and exit the bedroom. Mr. Best failed to comply and repeatedly insisted to officers that he was not going to drop the knife. A call was made for the Monmouth County Special Emergency Response Team (“MOCERT”) to respond to the location. While awaiting their arrival, Mr. Best, at various times, opened the door, revealing that he was still armed with a knife. At approximately 10:09 p.m., Mr. Best opened the door and, among other things, made a sudden motion as if he was going to come toward the officers. Shortly afterwards, while gesturing with the knife Mr. Best said “I’m gonna stab him.” Sgt. De Shader fired twice from his service weapon and fatally wounded Mr. Best. Officers and EMS rendered medical aid, and EMS transported Mr. Best to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, N.J., where he was pronounced deceased at 10:31 pm.
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.
After considering the evidence, testimony from the OPIA investigation, and instructions on the legal standards, including whether the officer’s actions were legally justified, the state grand jury determined that no criminal charges should be brought against the officers. An officer may use deadly force in New Jersey when the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.
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: