The Deptford police sergeant who shot and killed a suspected shoplifter, who authorities say tried to run him over while fleeing the parking lot of a strip mall, has quietly left the department and applied for “accidental disability retirement,” records show.
Sgt. Kevin Clements never returned to active duty after the June 2018 incident, the first police-involved fatal shooting in the history of the department. Clements and another officer were dispatched to the scene after a report of three suspects shoplifting at a Marshalls store. He is the third officer to leave the force since the shooting. A captain who was present when the shooting occurred retired Jan. 1, and the police chief retired March 1.
Clements, 42, of Wenonah, shot LaShanda Anderson, 36, of Philadelphia, during a June 9 encounter at the Deptford Crossing Shopping Center. Anderson and two others were trying to get away from police after shoplifting at the Marshalls store, authorities say.
Anderson was struck in the head and an arm. A third bullet missed. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Her alleged accomplices, Chanel Barnes, 38, and Raoul Gadson, 43, both of Philadelphia, were eventually taken into custody. Barnes is awaiting trial on a shoplifting charge and Gadson on robbery and assault charges.
Clements, a 19-year veteran, was placed on paid administrative leave for six months pending a review of the shooting by Gloucester County Prosecutor Charles Fiore. In November, Fiore announced that a grand jury did not recommend any charges against the officer.
On March 31, Clements retired and applied for “accidental disability retirement” benefits, according to township records obtained by The Inquirer under the Open Public Records Act. He was paid $111,292 in 2018 and $30,080 in 2019, records show.
According to state pension guidelines, accidental disability retirement benefits may be granted to public employees considered “permanently and totally disabled” who can prove that they are physically or mentally incapacitated and unable to perform their normal jobs “as a direct result of a traumatic event."
William Skaggs, a spokesperson for the state Treasury Department, said a review board had not made a decision on Clements’ retirement application. The nature of his disability was not disclosed.
"It’s still pending,” Skaggs said this week. A decision could take up to eight months.
If granted accidental disability retirement, Clements would be eligible to receive 72.7 percent of his annual base salary, about $80,000, according to state guidelines. An ordinary disability retirement would pay him 43.6 percent of his final salary, or nearly $49,000 annually.
Clements does not have an attorney and could not be reached for comment. Chief Kevin Pancoast and Township Solicitor Doug Long did not respond to numerous inquires.
Stanley King, a civil rights lawyer who represents Anderson’s family, said he was not surprised by Clements’ retirement. “I have no doubt that that is a traumatic event. Something went terribly wrong that day,” said King. “This [the retirement] may still be part of the fallout from that incident.”
Capt. William Bittner, a second officer who was dispatched to the store in response to the shoplifting incident, retired Dec. 31. He receives a monthly pension of $7,364, according to state records.
Police Chief William Hanstein retired in March, ending a 32-year career. He had been chief since August 2013 and was paid $143,476 in 2018. His pension records have not yet been posted on the state’s online system.
Federal authorities are reviewing the shooting for possible civil rights violations and investigating the use of deadly force by Clements. Prosecutors have declined comment.
Authorities have said Clements feared for his life when he fired at Anderson’s leased Nissan Armada after she accelerated toward him and ignored his commands to stop. Barnes, the lone passenger, was arrested at the scene. Gadson was taken into custody several days later.
Police say the trio stole $3,400 worth of merchandise from Marshalls. All three had extensive criminal records, mostly for shoplifting. Anderson’s record dated back to 2000. She had been arrested more than 15 times for shoplifting but also for more serious charges, including robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Anderson’s family and two eyewitnesses who were not called to testify before the grand jury have raised questions about the shooting. Terence Jones, a private investigator who conducted a review of the case for the Gloucester County chapter of the NAACP, contends that Clement placed himself in “imminent danger” by suddenly appearing in front of the fleeing SUV driven by Anderson.
“I believe that he willfully put himself in danger. He had time to get out of the way," Jones said.
Clements and Bittner were dispatched to the strip mall in response to a report that a man and two women were shoplifting. The dispatcher told the officers that one of the suspects was wanted in a homicide, which was incorrect.
In a statement to Jones, Barnes said she and Anderson fled the store empty-handed and jumped into the Armada, which was facing away from the police officers. The SUV accelerated in the opposite direction of the officers, Barnes said, and Bittner threw a metal baton at the back window, shattering the glass.
When Anderson made a right turn in the parking lot, Clements appeared in front of the SUV and fired a shot without warning into the windshield on the driver’s side, Barnes said in the statement. Anderson, who was struck in the head by a bullet, lost control of the vehicle, which eventually came to rest at an access road, she said.
Barnes’ account is at odds with that of law enforcement officials. The prosecutor said Bittner pointed his handgun at Anderson and ordered her out of the vehicle. He said Bittner then approached the open driver’s side door, and Anderson sped off, striking the officer in the shoulder.
Clements was standing 12 to 25 feet in front of the vehicle with his weapon drawn when he ordered Anderson to stop, according to Fiore. Clements then fired three shots, striking Anderson twice, he said.
According to the state attorney general’s guidelines on the use of deadly force, discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle entails “an even greater risk of death or serious injury” to innocent persons. The weapon should be fired only if there are no other available means to avert the danger, the guidelines say.
Anderson’s niece Traisha Way of Philadelphia, who has maintained that the use of deadly force was not justified, said the family remains encouraged by the review by federal authorities into the shooting.