August 20, 2015
By Kevin Shea
Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson, left, meet with Acting N.J. Attorney General John J. Hoffman in the attorney general’s office Thursday Aug. 20, 2015. (Michael Walker | Trenton City Hall)
TRENTON – U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman did not attend a meeting Thursday with the state Attorney General’s office concerning the police shooting of 14-year-old Radazz Hearns in Trenton earlier this month, the congresswoman’s office said.
Watson Coleman sought the meeting after criticizing the Attorney General’s office publicly for not releasing sufficient information about the Aug. 7 shooting of Hearns. The congresswoman said the lack of information was the basis for her calling for an independent, federal probe of the shooting last week.
“There was a conflict on her calendar,” Watson Coleman spokeswoman Courtney Cochran said Thursday.
Watson Coleman did issue a statement late Thursday.
“Although I was unable to attend this meeting, the Attorney General’s invitation to engage myself and other members of the Trenton community on the developments of this case represents an important first step toward rebuilding trust in this process, and I hope the second step will be a direct conversation with the community.”
Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman did meet Thursday morning with several other political and community leaders from the Trenton area, including Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson and Trenton Police Director Ernest Parrey Jr.
Jackson said Thursday evening the meeting was informative, productive and he gained a better understanding of the newer protocols the Attorney General’s office is using to investigate police shootings. He believes the group did too.
“I have confidence in this process, in the Attorney General’s staff, the sharing information and where they are in this process,” Jackson said.
Attorney General staffers did not share any details about shooting investigation, beyond what has already been made public, the mayor said.
Hearns, who has been identified by family members and his family’s lawyer, was charged Tuesday with pointing a gun at police. A State Police trooper and Mercer County sheriff’s officer, who have not been named, shot Hearns seven times as he ran from the officers.
Jackson said the meeting lasted two hours and included a presentation from Hoffman and his staffers, a question and answer session and a “healthy dialogue.”
Proceeding the group meeting, Jackson had a one-on-one meeting with Hoffman.
“We talked about the need to be fully transparent and have a full investigation going forward. And I am confident that process will continue,” Jackson said.
Also attending the meeting were Mercer County acting Prosecutor Angelo Onofri, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, and State Sen. Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer) and State Assembly members Reed Gusciora and Elizabeth Muoio (both D-Mercer), officials said.
Attorney General’s spokesman Paul Loriquet said other topics discussed included the statewide initiative to equip New Jersey State Police troopers in the field with body cameras, and a grant program to incentivize local police departments to buy cameras.
The group also discussed other initiatives to “bolster community and law enforcement relations and to drive down urban crime and violence,” he said.
Turner also issued a statement Thursday evening, saying the meeting included a number of community leaders who expressed the need to improve police transparency and accountability.
“However, we need to require the same accountability of our parents and the community at-large,” Turner said.
“In a span of less than two weeks, in addition to the shooting of a 14-year old by the police … in a separate incident several teenagers were arrested and a 13-year old was charged with a weapons offense. This is a wakeup call for our community.”
Watson Coleman as late as Tuesday indicated she was attending the meeting with the Attorney General.
In her statement Thursday, she said: “From the outset, my greatest concern has been the public’s lack of faith in the investigation and protocols of the Attorney General’s office. If all parties can continue to work together, in transparency and good faith, I’m confident that the truth will come to light, and justice will be served.”
Authorities have previously said the officers confronted Hearns and two other males walking on Louise Lane near Calhoun Street shortly after a police received a report that gunfire was heard in the area. Hearns ran and pointed a gun at the officers before they opened fire, according to the Attorney General’s office.
A .22-caliber handgun loaded with three bullets was found in the vicinity of where Hearns collapsed 12 hours after the incident, authorities have said. The gun was under a parked emergency response vehicle during the investigation and was not found until that vehicle moved the next day.
Hearns’ family lawyer Samuel A. Anyan Jr. maintains the teen was unarmed during the incident.