Police shot and killed a Pennsylvania man during a confrontation in Ventnor, N.J., in August, just seconds after an officer had tried to subdue the man with a Taser — but the weapon wouldn’t work, according to videos of the incident released Friday by New Jersey investigators.
Amir Johnson, 30, of Wilkes-Barre, was brandishing a broken bottle, ranting, and walking erratically on the roadway as traffic was stopped and officers converged on the scene. They tried to persuade him to surrender in the late afternoon of Aug. 6. At one point, an Atlantic City police officer raised his yellow Taser — which uses electroshocks to temporarily stun its target — and warned Johnson he would shoot. But the officer couldn’t get the weapon to discharge.
“I don’t think this Taser is even operating,” said the officer, exasperated, on the video. “This is unbelievable.”
About 20 seconds later, Johnson surged toward another group of officers and three fired at him. He died later at a nearby hospital.
No charges have been filed in the case, but the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability under New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said it was publicly releasing the videos as well as audio from a related 911 call under its policy to do so “once the initial phase of the investigation is substantially complete.” The office also said investigators met Friday with Johnson’s relatives to review the recordings, but did not elaborate on the details of that meeting.
Johnson’s family could not be reached for comment. Police officials from Ventnor and Atlantic City declined to comment, referring all questions to the Attorney General’s Office.
Officers from both Shore towns had responded to the scene after an afternoon 911 call reporting that a man in the area of Wellington and West End Avenues “literally stopped traffic in the middle of the road,” was “running in front of cars,” and was “bleeding from his neck.”
In the videos, the officers can be heard asking Johnson to drop a bottle he had in his hand. The Attorney General’s Office has said it was a broken glass bottle.
Johnson refuses to drop the bottle and, in the videos, can be heard cursing at the officers and at one point yelling, “Shoot me!”
After the Atlantic City officer’s Taser failed, Johnson backed into a grassy area, then pivoted and began running toward Ventnor officers who were near the side of the road, and past two civilian vehicles where people were huddled inside.
“We don’t want to do this, man! Stop!” one officer is heard yelling at Johnson as he approaches. “Stop!" and “Drop the bottle!” they continue shouting. Johnson falls to the ground, then gets up and continues toward them.
That’s when three officers fired.
Johnson fell onto the road, wounded, and was moaning, the videos show. The officers continued yelling at him to drop the bottle, and cuffed his hands behind his back while saying they were going to get him help.
An ambulance was called, but he died shortly afterward at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City.
The three Ventnor officers who fired the shots at Johnson were identified as Michael Arena, Pierluigi Mancuso, and Robert Scarborough.
The Attorney General’s Office said when the investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury to decide if charges should be filed.
A friend of Johnson’s, Alhassan Abdulfattaah, who lives in the Bronx, New York City, said last month that Johnson had been feeling down after losing his fiancee. A prior girlfriend of Johnson’s, Kayla Drevenak of Wilkes-Barre, said Johnson’s most recent girlfriend had died of a drug overdose in July.
Abdulfattaah said Johnson, who worked various temporary jobs, including helping people move, had grown up in the Bronx. Johnson returned to the Bronx in late July “to better his spirits up,” the friend said. On the night of Aug. 1, Abdulfattaah said, he and Johnson went with others to Atlantic City and gambled through the night at the Ocean Casino Resort. Atlantic City was a place where Johnson had good memories with his girlfriend, Abdulfattaah said, adding that by the time he and the others left Johnson there, he thought Johnson’s “spirits were good.”