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Jury Declines to Criminally Charge Officers Involved in Fatal Fort Lee Shooting


By: Najla Alexander 

NJ AG authorities announced that a state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations on June 17 regarding the death of Mohamed Bounaouar, 42, of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Officials stated he was fatally shot in Fort Lee after an encounter with members of the Fort Lee Police Department on February 4, 2023.AdMr. Bounaouar’s death was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to New Jersey residents serving on the grand jury in accordance with the Independent Prosecutor Directive of 2019, officials said. 

In July 2021, officials say, 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.

Authorities say the investigation included recordings from 911 calls, footage from various body-worn cameras and a conducted energy device (CED, commonly referred to as a taser), interviews with civilians and law enforcement personnel, photographs, ballistic testing results, and autopsy results from a medical examiner.

According to the investigation, members of the Fort Lee Police Department responded to John Street in Fort Lee following a 911 call from a family member reporting that Mr. Bounaouar was inside their home armed with a knife, acting in an aggressive manner and cutting his belongings.

Upon their arrival at the location, the family member informed law enforcement that four other people, along with Mr. Bounaouar, were inside the dwelling, officials said. 

Officials say officers entered the townhouse and attempted to speak to Mr. Bounaouar from the bottom of a staircase.

Later, with the assistance of law enforcement, all except one of the family members inside the residence were able to leave, according to officials. 

Officials stated the family informed officers that there was a family member on the third floor who was unable to exit, as Mr. Bounaouar was occupying the second floor.

Throughout the morning, additional resources from the Fort Lee Police Department, including crisis negotiators, the Emergency Services Unit (ESU), and the Fort Lee Fire Department, responded, authorities say. 

Police continued attempting to negotiate with Mr. Bounaouar as items were thrown down the stairs in the vicinity of officers, and various items were broken in the townhouse by Mr. Bounaouar, officials said. 

Officials said in an effort to get the remaining family member out of the third floor, additional officers were positioned on a neighboring balcony adjacent to the balcony of the townhouse that Mr. Bounaouar was occupying.

According to officials, at approximately 10:20 a.m., the Fort Lee Fire Department and law enforcement, using a bucket truck, attempted to remove the remaining family member from the townhouse’s third-floor window. During this effort, Mr. Bounaouar exited the residence onto his second-floor rear balcony.

There, with a knife in his hand, he moved in the direction of the officers who were on the neighboring balcony. Officer Emmanuel Espinal deployed a taser, and Detectives John Gallo and Stephen Domenick discharged their firearms, officials said. 

Authorities say Officer Espinal then deployed his taser a second time.

After hearing the gunfire, officials say, the officers who had been posted at the bottom of the stairs within the residence ascended the staircase to the second floor.

They found Mr. Bounaouar wounded and lying on the floor of the balcony, officials said. AdThey ordered him to drop the knife, but he rose to his feet and began moving towards them while still holding the knife, officials say. 

At that point, Officers Matthew Lyle and Gabriel Avella discharged their firearms, striking Mr. Bounaouar, officials said. 

Authorities say officers then removed two knives located near Mr. Bounaouar. Emergency medical personnel rendered first aid at the scene.

Mr. Bounaouar was pronounced deceased at approximately 10:39 a.m., officials stated, and one officer sustained a non-life-threatening ricochet gunshot injury to his hand.