An attorney for the family of a man fatally shot by a New Jersey state trooper on the Garden State Parkway in Burlington County in May wants an independent prosecutor to investigate the case instead of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
William O. Wagstaff III, the lawyer for the family of Maurice Gordon, said Wednesday that the Attorney General’s Office is “incapable of investigating Maurice’s killing impartially” because it has too close of a relationship to the New Jersey State Police.
The Memorial Day weekend shooting of Gordon, an unarmed Black man, by a white police sergeant occurred two days before the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“It’s been 52 days since Mr. Gordon’s family has waited for answers about how a mere traffic stop ripped him away from their lives,” Wagstaff said in a statement. “It’s been 52 days, and justice still has not been met.”
Wagstaff said the investigation by the Attorney General’s Office was “botched from the beginning” and complained that Gordon’s family learned about the release of the police dash-cam footage last month at the same time the footage was released to the public.
A spokesperson for the office said there would be no comment on Wagstaff’s statement. By law, he said, the state Attorney General’s Office is required to investigate police-involved shootings and present evidence to a grand jury to determine if criminal charges are warranted.
Gordon, 28, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., was fatally shot by New Jersey State Police Sgt. Randall Wetzel on the morning of May 23 after Wetzel pulled him over on the southbound Garden State Parkway in Bass River for allegedly driving at 110 mph.
Wetzel invited Gordon to sit in the back of his patrol car after Gordon’s Honda Civic wouldn’t restart and Gordon got out of his car on the busy highway.
About 20 minutes after sitting in the trooper’s vehicle while they were waiting for a tow truck, Gordon removed his seat belt and got out, according to police dash-cam video released by the Attorney General’s Office in June. Wetzel could be heard outside the vehicle repeatedly yelling, “Get in the car!”
Gordon twice ran toward the driver’s side of the trooper’s car, then struggled with him on the shoulder of the parkway before Wetzel fired his gun six times, killing Gordon, the Attorney General’s Office said.
Moments later, when another officer arrived on the scene, Wetzel was heard in the audio recording saying: “We were fighting with my gun, and I shot him.”
A day before the shooting, a friend of Gordon’s in Poughkeepsie called 911 and told a dispatcher Gordon had driven off in his car, looking “panicked” after having spoken of a “paranormal experience,” according to a recording of that call released by the state Attorney General’s Office.