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Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office Concludes Use of Force Justified in Non-Fatal Police Shooting in Trenton

By rlsmetro on

The Mercer County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO) has completed its investigation into the September 29, 2019 use of force by a detective of the Trenton Police Department and has concluded that the use of force was legally justified. 

The Attorney General's Office concurred with MCPO's conclusion to forego the presentation of this matter to the Grand Jury.

On September 29, 2019, the incident occurred at approximately 4:03 p.m. at 1901 Calhoun Street in Trenton (Valcar Auto Sales). 

Trenton Police Department Communications received an activation of six gunfire rounds through ShotSpotter, a gunfire detection and location technology providing scalable and reliable gunfire alert and analysis. 

It was learned that this was an officer-involved shooting involving a suspect, later identified as Joseph Reeves, who was shot in the head, upper body, and mid-body by a Trenton Police detective and emergency medical services responded to the scene and located Reeves, who was transported to Capital Health Regional Medical Center where he underwent surgery. 

At approximately 4:10 p.m., the Mercer County Homicide Task Force was activated to investigate. 

The investigation, including statements of three officers and one civilian witness and physical evidence, revealed the following:

The detective was scheduled to work his shift on September 29, 2019, from 3 p.m. until 3 a.m. the following day. The detective left the roll-call briefing dressed in a black Trenton Police "SWAT" sweatshirt and green cargo-style pants.

While leaving Trenton Police Headquarters, the detective turned on his department-issued police radio and learned that a shooting had just occurred in the area of East Hanover and North Montgomery Streets. 

There was a broadcast that the suspect vehicle was possibly a silver Ford Fusion with damage to the rear/trunk area. The detective left Headquarters and drove toward a location he believed the suspect would flee from East Hanover Street. 

While stopped at a red light at Calhoun and Southard Streets, the detective observed a silver Kia Optima sedan traveling on Calhoun Street toward Princeton Avenue/Route 206. 

The detective observed that the rear driver's side window was "blown out," as if the result of gunfire. 

The detective also observed a large dent in the rear/trunk area of the vehicle. He broadcasted his observations to the other detectives via Trenton Police Communications. 

The detective further advised that the vehicle's make and model were somewhat different than the original description; however, the vehicles are similar in appearance.

The detective followed the silver Kia Optima on Calhoun Street toward West Miller Street. Once the vehicle arrived in this area, the Kia made an abrupt left into the parking lot at 1901 Calhoun Street (Valcar Auto Sales). 

While waiting for backup, the detective observed the suspect vehicle enter the back corner of the gravel/dirt parking lot. As the Kia remained in the rear of the lot, the detective decided to make contact. 

The detective drove his vehicle into the parking lot area of 1901 Calhoun Street and parked roughly seven to ten yards behind the Kia. The detective exited his vehicle, un-holstered his department-issued Glock .40 caliber handgun, identified himself as a police officer, and gave verbal commands to the Kia's driver to stay here he was. 

The driver, later identified as Joseph Reeves, looked over his shoulder and made eye contact with the detective. 

Reeves then put the Kia in reverse and drove backwards toward the detective, who took cover behind his vehicle as Reeves crashed the Kia into the side of the detective's vehicle. Reeves then placed the Kia in drive and pulled away, passing in front of the detective. 

While doing so, Reeves raised a "shiny" silver handgun and pointed it in the detective's direction. In response to having the gun pointed at him, the detective fired his department-issued duty weapon at Reeves, striking him and the Kia several times. 

Reeves crashed into an unoccupied parked SUV inside the parking lot of 1901 Calhoun Street.

The detective approached the Kia on the driver's side. He observed Reeves open the door and exit the vehicle with his hands raised. Reeves stated, "You shot me," and immediately dropped to his knees and kept his hands in the air. 

The detective approached Reeves and handcuffed him. Within minutes, backup officers arrived and radioed for medical assistance and additional officers. 

While securing the scene, officers observed and recovered a large silver revolver on the driver's side floorboard of the Kia.

A civilian witness confirmed that he observed a police officer exit his vehicle and order the occupant of another vehicle out of the car.

In conformance with Trenton Police Department policy, a blood draw was taken from the detective. Laboratory analysis of all of the blood samples yielded negative findings for either ethyl alcohol or any impairing drugs at the time of this incident.

As a result of the investigation, Joseph Reeves was indicted for this incident as well as the incident at East Hanover and North Montgomery streets, which occurred prior to this encounter. 

He was charged with first- and second-degree weapons and assault offenses. On November 12, 2021, Reeves pleaded guilty to second-degree aggravated assault and fourth-degree aggravated assault. 

He stated on the record that he pointed a revolver at Det. Mancheno, under circumstances, manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life. Reeves is scheduled to be sentenced on January 14, 2022.