TRENTON — A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Merrill Rambarose, 49, of Edison, New Jersey, who was fatally shot by Edison police officers on April 12, 2022.
Mr. Rambarose’s death was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to New Jersey residents serving on the state 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 witness interviews, photographs, review of video footage, as well as autopsy results from the medical examiner. This evidence, including video of the incident, was presented to a state grand jury. After hearing the testimony and evidence, the grand jury concluded its deliberations on September 25, 2023, and voted “no bill,” meaning no criminal charges should be filed against Officer Daniel Bradley and Officer Joseph Elqumos of the Edison Police Department.
According to the investigation, uniformed Edison police officers responded to a 911 call made shortly after 3:45 p.m. reporting a man was threatening a woman with an axe at an apartment complex on Judson Street in Edison. When officers arrived, they attempted to speak with Mr. Rambarose on his second-floor apartment balcony, urging him to come downstairs to talk to them. Mr. Rambarose went inside his apartment and emerged moments later armed with an axe. Officers repeatedly ordered him to drop the weapon. Mr. Rambarose did not comply and continued to run toward officers with the axe in his hand. Officers Elqumos and Bradley both fired their weapons, fatally wounding Mr. Rambarose. The axe was recovered near Mr. Rambarose. Officers and emergency medical personnel rendered first aid before Mr. Rambarose, was transported to JFK University Medical Center in Edison. He was pronounced deceased at 4:41 p.m.
Video footage from three body-worn cameras capturing the events surrounding the shooting were previously released. Those recordings are available here: https://njoag.app.box.com/s/qqq3m1wx52b1xwaottfjkld41cdvm3wc
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 the grand jury is instructed on self-defense and other forms of legal justification.
A conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the 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 Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any officers 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