Note: Members of the press can email the Communications Office to obtain a link to download the recordings.
OLD BRIDGE – The Attorney General’s Office today released footage from a police body-worn camera and audio from a 9-1-1 call related to a fatal police-involved shooting on April 24, 2023 in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge. The decedent was previously identified as Luke Mendez, 26, of Laurence Harbor. The officer who fired his service weapon at Mr. Mendez has been identified as Officer Christopher Hammel of the Old Bridge Police Department.
The fatal shooting is under investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA). The recordings are being released pursuant to policies established by the Attorney General’s Office in 2019 to promote the fair, impartial, and transparent investigation of fatal police encounters. Investigators previously met with the family of Mr. Mendez to provide them an opportunity to review the recordings before they were publicly released.
According to the preliminary investigation, police responded to a 9-1-1 call regarding a dispute on April 24, 2023 at approximately 3:09 p.m. at a residence on Woodland Avenue in Laurence Harbor. As Mr. Mendez descended a staircase while holding a knife, Officer Hammel fired his service weapon, striking Mendez. He was then transported to Old Bridge Medical Center and was pronounced deceased at 4:47 p.m.
The recordings can be viewed and listened to here: https://njoag.box.com/s/p53if3wmodn2lijbakzjbxv5oepvak89
The investigation is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time.
This investigation is being conducted pursuant to a state law enacted in January 2019 (P.L. 2019, c.1), which requires that the Attorney General’s Office conduct all 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. Separately, the Independent Prosecutor Directive, which was issued in December 2019, outlines a 10-step process for conducting these investigations. The Directive establishes clear procedures governing such investigations to ensure that they are conducted in a full, impartial and transparent manner. Under both state law and the Directive, when the entire investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury, typically consisting of 16 to 23 citizens, to make the ultimate decision regarding whether criminal charges will be filed.
Further information about how fatal police encounters are investigated in New Jersey under the Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website at http://www.njoag.gov/independent-prosecutor/