The Attorney General’s Office is conducting an investigation of a fatal police-involved shooting that occurred on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021 in Paterson, N.J.
One man identified as Thelonious McKnight Jr., 25, of Paterson, N.J. sustained fatal injuries but accounts vary about what happened.
According to the preliminary investigation, officers of the Paterson Police Department were investigating an earlier incident when they encountered McKnight, who was known by his loved ones as “Rara,” near East Main Street and Hillman Street shortly before 9 p.m.
The Attorney General’s Office said that during the encounter, one police officer fired his service weapon, fatally wounding McKnight. The official did not say why the officer used deadly force.
Police claim that a 9mm handgun was recovered near McKnight’s body but friends who were at the scene and a family member say otherwise.
“My cousin was murdered by Paterson, New Jersey police! He was shot multiple times in his back,” said Joshon R. Troutman. “The Paterson Police claimed that he had a weapon on him; but all my cousin had on him was a phone and a bag of potato chips.”
A friend of the victim, Duke Snider, was with him and other friends on the night of the shooting, near the entrance of the East Main Deli and Grocery on East Main Street around 9 p.m.
“A cop car drove by and then came back and stopped,” Snider said. “One of the cops came up and went straight for Thelonius. Then two other cops joined him. They marched Thelonius toward the backyard and made him take his hands out of his pockets.”
Snider said that he followed and that Thelonious was facing police with his hands up when they shot him.
The 25-year-old was pronounced dead by a physician from St. Joseph’s University Medical Center at 9:11p.m. just minutes after the shooting.
“You see stuff like this every day and never think it’ll be you going through it,” said Janet Rodriguez, the victim’s sister, on a Go Fund Me page. “You always feel bad for the people going through it but you never realize how hurt they are until it’s you. The emptiness you feel. How helpless you end up being. I’m so empty, so numb, so lost right now”
“RaRa was a son, a brother, the best damn uncle, and a friend to so many people,” said Rodriguez. “RaRa meant so much to so many people and Paterson’s finest took him away from us all. I don’t know what to do. How am I supposed to fix this for him? What am I supposed to do for my baby brother?”
Police and emergency medical personnel rendered first aid to McKnight, and he was pronounced deceased at the scene by a physician from St. Joseph’s University Medical Center at 9:11 p.m.
This investigation is being conducted pursuant to Attorney General Directive 2019-4, which implements the statutory requirement that the Attorney General’s Office conducts the investigation of any 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, and which establishes clear standards and procedures for conducting such investigations.
The investigation is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time.