No charges against Orange Police in fatality

A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Jamahl Smith, 46, of Newark, N.J., who was fatally shot in July 2019 by an officer of the Orange Police Department.

Orange Police responding to a violent domestic incident that involved a man and his sister inside a third-floor apartment of an Orange New Jersey senior living building ended with the woman suffering multiple stab wounds and Smith being shot dead.

As required by statute, all fatal police encounters must be presented to a grand jury. According to available evidence, including civilian and police witnesses, Smith was shot after officers responded to multiple 911 calls reporting a stabbing and a man armed with a knife.

The 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 by the Attorney General in 2019.

The investigation included interviews of witnesses; collection of forensic evidence; and autopsy results from the medical examiner.

After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury concluded its deliberations on July 27 and voted “no bill,” meaning a majority of grand jurors found the actions of the officer who shot Smith were justified and no charges should be filed against him.

The shooting occurred on July 13, 2019 at approximately 3:07 p.m. on the third floor of the Oakwood Towers, 400 Oakwood Avenue in Orange.

Police responded to multiple 911 calls reporting a stabbing and a male subject armed with a knife.

When officers arrived, they encountered Smith, who approached them with a knife.

Officers ordered him to drop the knife numerous times, but Smith disregarded those instructions and continued to advance toward the officers.

Officer Willie Jones of the Orange Police Department discharged his service weapon three times, striking Smith. Officers then proceeded to render aid to Smith and his 51-year-old sister, who was suffering from stab wounds.

Smith was transported to University Hospital in Newark, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy revealed that Smith died as a result of gunshot wounds to his abdomen, forearm, and thigh.

A 2019 law requires the Attorney General’s Office to probe any death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer or while the deceased is in custody, and to present the result of that investigation to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against any officers involved.

After considering the facts, evidence, and testimony from the OPIA , the state grand jury found the actions of the officer were justified because 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.

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