TRENTON – A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Rudolfo Pagan, 46, of Camden, N.J., who died six days after an encounter with officers from the Camden County Metro Police Department.
The fatal police encounter was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to 16 to 23 New Jersey residents called to serve on the grand jury in accordance with AG 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 officer-involved fatality included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, review of body worn camera footage, and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury completed its deliberations yesterday, Dec. 13, and concluded that no criminal charges should be filed.
According to the investigation, at approximately 10:46 p.m. on Nov. 10, 2019, Officers William Grasso and Dachaira Marquez-Guadalupe entered a residence in Ablett Village in Camden in response to a 911 call reporting a man acting in a strange manner. Inside the home, they encountered Mr. Pagan, who was naked and behaving erratically. For the safety of officers and civilians present, officers attempted to restrain Mr. Pagan, who became combative and exited the residence. Mr. Pagan was handcuffed and placed on the ground. Officers Colin Wetmore, Timothy Miller, Deborah Baker, and Justin Goldman arrived at various times and assisted Officers Grasso and Marquez-Guadalupe with efforts to restrain Mr. Pagan. Police requested EMS, who arrived a few minutes later, at which point Mr. Pagan was in cardiac arrest and no longer breathing. He was treated at the scene and transported by ambulance to Cooper University Hospital, where he died six days later on Nov. 16, 2019. An autopsy was conducted and the Medical Examiner determined that Mr. Pagan died of complications of cocaine intoxication.
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.
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: