State grand jury declines to charge Jersey City cop who fatally shot armed man last year


A state grand jury has declined to charge a Jersey City police officer who fatally shot a man armed with a handgun last spring, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office announced.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The death of Joseph Robertson, 59, 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.

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, medical records, 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 yesterday and voted “no bill,” meaning no criminal charges should be filed against Officer Omar Polanco of the Jersey City Police Department.

The grand jury was 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.

According to the investigation, Jersey City police officers responded to a 911 call made shortly after 11:56 p.m. on May 24th, 2022, reporting a domestic dispute involving a man with a gun near the intersection of Communipaw and West Side Avenues.

When officers arrived, they encountered Robertson and a woman near the BP gas station and he pointed a firearm at the woman. At this point, Officer Omar Polanco ordered him to drop the weapon.

Robertson did not comply, but instead pulled the woman closer to him and placed her in a headlock with the firearm pointed at her. Robertson fired his weapon one time, striking the woman in the chest.

In response, Polanco fired his weapon twice, and both shots struck Robertson, fatally wounding him. The police recovered the decedent’s firearm at the scene.

Officers and emergency medical personnel rendered first aid to Robertson and he was pronounced deceased at the scene at 12:19 a.m. The woman was also provided with medical attention and sustained a non-fatal injury.

Polanco and Robertson were both ID’ed by the AG’s office one week after the incident and the police body camera, along with surveillance footage, was released the following month.

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.

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