On Monday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal released police camera footage of an unarmed Black man being shot six times by a white state trooper amid a scuffle on May 23.
The video shows Maurice Gordon being pulled over by Sergeant Randall Wetzel for speeding at 110 miles per hour on a New Jersey highway. Wetzel asks Gordon to move his car, but the vehicle won’t start.
Wetzel then calls a tow truck for Gordon and asks Gordon to sit in his police cruiser while they wait for its arrival. The video shows Gordon agreeing to his suggestion.
Wetzel gives Gordon a mask to wear and offers to drive him to a car dealership. Approximately 20 minutes later, Gordon is seen hurriedly getting out of the car in the video.
Wetzel is seen yelling several times, “Get in the car” and shortly after, a scuffle breaks out between them outside the cruiser.
During the tussle, which is partially captured on video, Gordon tries to enter the police car two times. Wetzel is seen trying to stop him by first using pepper spray on him. It is during Gordon’s second attempt that Wetzel fires six shots at him.
The audio and video recording, which are part of the Attorney General’s investigation, were both released on Monday due to a statewide policy that requires any video evidence to be released after the initial phase of an investigation which typically takes up to 20 days.
Gordon’s family attorney William Wagstaff who had seen part of the footage before its release said on Monday that Wetzel started roughing up Gordon after he tried to escape from the car, ultimately shooting him six times.
“After separating himself from the officer twice, it appears that he was trying to separate himself from the officer, with no warning fired multiple shots into his body,” Wagstaff told CNN on Sunday.
Wagstaff also revealed that the video recordings weren’t shared with Gordon’s family before they were released publicly. The family was planning Gordon’s funeral when their friends and family told them that the video has been released by the attorney general.
“I just can’t imagine the insensitivity,” Wagstaff said.
“They sat on this for two weeks. In the absence of media and the press putting pressure on the state of New Jersey to do the right thing, which is to allow the family to learn the circumstances of Mr. Gordon’s death, they didn’t even give the family a day.”
However, a spokesperson for the attorney general said that officials had offered the family to show the video to the family on Sunday before the public release the next day.
Wagstaff emphasized the lack of clarity surrounding what led to the struggle between Wetzel and Gordon, which happened nearly 40 minutes after their first encounter on the highway.
“He’s aware he has no weapons on him,” Wagstaff said, referring to the trooper’s knowledge that Gordon was unarmed. “There was no ticket – no notice that he’s being arrested.”
After the shooting, Wetzel can be seen on video telling another law enforcement official, “He ran away from me, tried to hop into my trooper car, grabbed my gun. We were fighting with my gun and I shot him.”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said at a press briefing later on Monday that a grand jury would review the circumstances of Gordon’s death to determine if any criminal charges would be levied against Wetzel.
“Any life lost is a life to be mourned and grieved,” Murphy said. “Police have a responsibility to protect the people they serve, and that demands a high level of accountability when things go wrong.”
The video of Gordon’s killing comes during a time of widespread protests in all states in the United States over the police killing of George Floyd, which occurred two days after Gordon’s death.
Gordon’s family, like that of Floyd’s, has also demanded an investigation into the matter as well as the arrest of Wetzel.
Until the facts of the case are determined, Wetzel remains on paid administrative leave.
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