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Officer Involved in Fatal Police Encounter in Asbury Park Not Criminally Charged

By rlsmetro on
Asbury Park

A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges after its deliberations regarding the death of James Manzo, 27, of Asbury Park, who was fatally shot by Officer James R. Crawford of the Asbury Park Police Department on July 23, 2019. 

As required by statute, all fatal police encounters must be presented to a grand jury. According to available evidence, including video from body-worn cameras and the statement of a civilian witness, Mr. Manzo attempted to stab an officer with a pair of scissors.

According to the investigation, the shooting occurred at approximately 10:19 p.m. at the residence where Mr. Manzo lived at 305 7th Avenue.

According to the Attorney General's office, members of the Asbury Park Police Department responded to the location on a report that Mr. Manzo was behaving erratically and had made statements of intent to commit violence against another person. 

The Attorney General's office said that upon arrival, Asbury Park officers entered the building and attempted to talk to Mr. Manzo. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to obtain information from Mr. Manzo, an officer tried to enter Mr. Manzo's room. 

According to the investigation, Mr. Manzo then immediately attempted to stab the officer with a pair of scissors. During the encounter, Officer Crawford, who observed Mr. Manzo trying to stab the other officer, fired at Mr. Manzo, fatally wounding him. 

According to the Attorney General's office, first aid was rendered by officers and emergency medical personnel, and Mr. Manzo was transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m.

A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, 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.

After considering the facts, evidence, and testimony from the OPIA investigation, the state grand jury found the officer's actions were justified.

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 pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive, and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation. 

Before presentation to the grand jury, the investigation was reviewed by OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations in the SOPs.

After these investigations, pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any principal should be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for administrative review in accordance with the AG's Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures. 

OPIA monitors any resulting review and takes such actions as are necessary to ensure that the review is completed in a timely fashion and that appropriate actions are taken based on the results of the review.