TRENTON – A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Luan Agolli, 42, of Pequannock, N.J., who was fatally shot by officers of the Paterson Police Department during an encounter on April 23, 2020.
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 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, and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury concluded its deliberations yesterday, Jan. 18, and a majority of grand jurors found that the actions of the officers who shot Mr. Agolli were justified and no charges should be filed against them.
According to the investigation, uniformed officers from the Paterson Police Department responded at approximately 4:09 p.m. on April 23, 2020 to a 911 call reporting a man with a gun in area of 50 Carroll Street. When officers arrived, they encountered the subject, later identified as Mr. Agolli, who was armed with a handgun and walking in and around the intersection of Carroll and Harrison Streets. For several minutes, Agolli ignored repeated commands from the officers to drop his weapon and, instead, continued to walk in and out of the intersection, holding the gun in his hand and, at times, raising it and pointing it in the direction of the officers. During the standoff, Officers Guillermo Galvan, Jorge Garcia, Jimmy Maldonado and Maribel Seabrooks fired at Mr. Agolli, fatally wounding him. Emergency medical personnel responded and Mr. Agolli was pronounced dead at the scene.
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 facts, evidence, and testimony from the OPIA investigation, the state grand jury found the actions of the officers were justified. 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: http://www.nj.gov/oag/independent-prosecutor/