TRENTON – A state Grand Jury has declined to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Amir Johnson, 30, of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, who died when three officers of the Ventnor Police Department fired their service weapons at Johnson on Aug. 6, 2020 in Ventnor.
The Attorney General’s Office previously identified Officers Michael Arena, Pierluigi Mancuso and Robert Scarborough as the police officers who fired at Johnson.
The fatal police encounter was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and presented to the Grand Jury. According to a release from NJ Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, the investigation was cunducted in a neutral, objective manner and included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, review of video footage, and autopsy results from the medical examiner.
After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the Grand Jury concluded its deliberations June 27 and determined no charges should be filed against the officers.
According to the investigation, at approximately 4:15 p.m. on Aug. 6, 2020, officers from the Ventnor and Atlantic City Police Departments responded to a 911 call concerning a man behaving erratically in the vicinity of Wellington Avenue and West End Avenue. When the responding officers encountered the man, later identified as Amir Johnson, he was walking in and out of a marsh along the roadway, while holding a broken glass bottle in his hand. Johnson had self-inflicted lacerations on his arms and neck and was bleeding from his neck. The officers engaged with Johnson and offered him assistance, but he refused their efforts and failed to comply with their commands, including repeated requests for him to drop the bottle. Instead, he continued to walk back and forth on the roadway, where officers had stopped traffic for safety reasons. Officers continued to speak with Johnson, who was threatening to inflict additional self-harm, for several minutes. One officer was armed with a taser and attempted to deploy it; however, this was unsuccessful.
At approximately 4:30 p.m., Johnson was near a vehicle occupied by civilians when he rapidly advanced at officers with the broken bottle in his hand. Three officers fired their weapons, fatally wounding him. He was rushed by ambulance to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Atlantic City Campus, where he was pronounced deceased at approximately 6 p.m.
State law requires the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations of a person’s 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. It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved. 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.
A conflicts check was conducted by the Independent Prosecutor Directive who found no actual or potential conflict of interest involving any individual assigned to the investigation.
The Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website at this link: https://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/directives/ag-Directive-2019-4.pdf
Further information about how fatal police encounters are investigated in New Jersey under the directive is found at this link: https://www.njoag.gov/independent-prosecutor/