Jersey City police body camera footage that captured an officer fatally shooting Andrew Washington, 52, a mentally ill man who grabbed a knife during an episode, was released by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office this evening.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
As the AG’s office had previously revealed, the two officers from the Jersey City Emergency Services Unit, Stephen Gigante and Felix DeJesus, walked up to Washington’s second floor apartment at 256 Randolph Ave. after a woman from the Jersey Medical Center called the police.
A 911 call from a woman who identified herself as JCMC employee said they needed police to respond to a violent emotionally disturbed person at that address. The call was only 39 seconds.
She didn’t indicate if she was at the scene or not, but a JCMC ambulance was spotted outside before police entered the building.
“Hey Andrew, it’s the Jersey City police bro: we’re here to help you and make sure you’re good,” Gigante says once outside the apartment door.
“Andrew, hey bro my name’s Stephen man, we’re here to help you, you’re not in trouble. Hey Andrew, what’s going on man, you hearing voices? You hearing voices?”
Washington, who family members have said suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, does not come to the door but yells back and is clearly extremely agitated.
“If you don’t want to bother me or disrespect me leave, stop treating me like your f***ing slave! Get the f*** going slave driver!”
After about 15 minutes of trying to deescalate, Gigante goes to the ESU vehicle to get helmets for himself and DeJesus.
Upon reentry, he mentions that he’s not a ghost, which Washington had apparently told police he was seeing last time, and further attempts to establish rapport, to no avail.
“Like I said before, it’s the Jersey City Police Department. If you’re hearing voices, it might be one of our radios. I’m willing to work with you: How can I help you out today? I get it, some people feel that they’re intimidated with police at their door but we just want to help,” Gigante said.
“Hey Andrew, would you be willing to come talk to me man? We want to get out of your way, we’re not trying to stay here all day and bother you. If you need help, we’re here outside.”
After about 30 minutes, Gigante kicks the door in and Washington is seen wielding a knife. DeJesus fires his taser while Gigante fires his handgun twice nearly simultaneously.
Washington is still alive as police enter the apartment to see if anyone is inside.
“Do not fight brother, we want to help you out. You’re gonna be good,” Gigante says, later asking for EMS to come assist.
According to state officials, at approximately 2:29 p.m., Jersey City patrol officers arrived and tried unsuccessfully to communicate Mr. Washington, who refused to open his apartment door.
Officers then requested the Jersey City Emergency Services Unit (ESU), which arrived at around 2:56 p.m. ESU officers attempted to communicate with Washington through the closed apartment door.
“At approximately 3:28 p.m., ESU members forced open the door to Mr. Washington’s apartment. Washington advanced toward the officers in the hallway/stairwell with a knife in his hand and Officers DeJesus and Gigante fired their taser and service weapon, respectively. The knife was recovered at the scene,” the AG’s office said.
They also indicated that Washington was pronounced dead at the JCMC at 4:47 p.m.
The incident has caused great unrest in Jersey City, with a vigil outside of Washington’s home two days after the fact and several protests followed, including one that marched to City Hall on Wednesday prior to asking for accountability at the council meeting.
Many specifically called on the AG’s office to release the body camera footage, which typically takes about three to four months.
The day after the fatal shooting, Mayor Steven Fulop and Public Safety Director James Shea said that the incident, while tragic, was justified since officers were charged with a knife.
Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore, who has been critical for not implementing a crisis interventionist program that received council approval last year, tweeted that Shea should resign for misrepresenting the facts of the case.
“First of all, they misrepresented the time of the deescalation. They said they were in there for over an hour, but it was closer to half an hour. They also said they used all deescalation tactics, but a lot of trigger words were used,” Gilmore said in a phone interview.
“They also said family members were asked to deescalate and that is not shown. We have to put our officers in a better position to succeed when it comes to policing … The relationship of Black and brown communities is not where it needs to be. I’m still yet to here a valid reason why they entered the home. If that’s the type of training that our public safety officers get, then we’re going to be in a shitload of trouble.”
Sources familiar with the matter, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said that additional, longer body camera footage exists that shows police interacting with family members.
The AG’s office did not confirm or deny that additional footage exists, but city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said on Saturday morning that there is indeed more video from the incident.
“The loss of any person’s life is nothing short of a tragedy, and we are glad that the videos were released to the public,” she said in an email.
“We don’t want to overstep any part of the AG’s investigation so we will defer to all of their decisions, but we do hope sharing all other body camera footage from officers that arrived on the call will happen soon also as it would be helpful to the public to see the entire set of circumstances and interactions. This was a terrible and sad situation on all fronts and being transparent is paramount.”
Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association President Joe Cossolini declined to comment on the particulars since a state grand jury must still hear the case.
“The decision to use lethal force is a decision that every law enforcement officer hopes he or she will never be forced to make during their career,” he told HCV.
“Because of the pending investigation by the Office of the Attorney General that must by law be presented to the Grand Jury, the Jersey City POBA cannot comment on the specific facts of this matter.”
Other city officials either could not be reached or said they had not seen the video yet late Friday evening.
Furthermore, the AG’s office has faced criticism for releasing the footage minutes after New Jersey elected leaders began asking for the resignation of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez following his federal indictment this morning.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione.