Gloucester County on Monday released dramatic 911 and police radio recordings of the fatal police shooting of a shoplifter at a Deptford Township strip mall that revealed how the situation escalated from a minor property crime to a deadly confrontation.
Police Sgt. Kevin Clements, who was identified for the first time Monday, shot LaShanda Anderson, 36, of Philadelphia, who was driving a rented Nissan Armada and allegedly attempting to flee from a Marshalls store where she and two others tried to steal $3,443 in merchandise stuffed into a suitcase.
Anderson, who authorities said tried to run down Clements, a 17-year veteran of the force, and another police officer in the Marshalls parking lot, was pronounced dead at the scene. Chanel Barnes, 38, of Philadelphia, who was in the passenger seat, was arrested at the scene. Raoul Gadsen, 43, also of Philadelphia, eluded capture until last Wednesday, when he was apprehended in Philadelphia. All three had extensive criminal records.
The county released seven audio recordings related to the June 9 events, including police radio communications and a call from the Marshalls loss-prevention officer who told a county 911 operator that one of the suspects was wanted for manslaughter. That turned out to be inaccurate, said Bernie Weisenfeld, a spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office.
The recordings were made public in response to an open-records request made by Philly.com and the Inquirer and Daily News.
The loss prevention officer's claim seemed to escalate the situation, according to the audio recordings.
"I'm gonna need assistance stopping them," the Marshalls employee said in his 911 call to report the shoplifters.
"Oh, we don't stop them, sir. You have to stop them. We don't stop them," the operator responded.
"Ma'am, you can send them. I know you can send them. One of them has a warrant for manslaughter. I'm gonna need help stopping them," said the employee, whose name was not released.
"OK, where are they now," the operator replied.
"They're in the store," the employee said.
Authorities previously said the loss-prevention employee recognized one of the suspects from a state police bulletin about a retail theft ring targeting the store. It was not immediately known Monday what information was provided on the bulletin and whether there was mention of a warrant.
On the 911 call, the employee provided a limited description of the two female suspects while possibly following them through the store, sometimes in a hushed voice.
"How do you know they're wanted for homicide?" the operator asked, but the employee seemed distracted, repeatedly saying, "Hold on."
The operator then relayed the claim to a supervisor or police officer: "He's advising me the [suspect is] wanted for homicide, but he's not cooperating with me."
The operator continued trying to get information from the Marshalls employee, who apparently began to run after the suspects.
"Sir, you need to communicate with me. I have two officers there. Where are you?" the operator asked.
Then a disturbance erupted and multiple voices are heard.
"He's apparently scuffling and screaming," the operator relayed.
A police officer is heard at the end of the 911 call: "Yeah, I see them. I'm pulling up."
More of the disturbance is audible, then at least one or two pops are heard before the nearly three-minute call ends.
The recording of nearly 40 minutes' worth of police communication starts with the operator dispatching police to the Marshalls, adding that loss-prevention officer was claiming that one of the suspects has a warrant.
After the officers arrived at the scene, 1800 Clements Bridge Rd., there was some unintelligible communication and then one officer shouts: "Struck my arm with the vehicle."
Within a few seconds, an officer shouts: "Shots fired! Shots fired!"
Then an officer, presumably Clements, reports: "She charged me with the vehicle."
No weapons were found in the vehicle, authorities said.
The officer-involved shooting has come under intense criticism from Anderson's family and from civil-rights leaders in New Jersey.
The NAACP has called for the state Attorney General's Office to take over the investigation from the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office. The civil rights group said it plans to conduct its own probe.
Gloucester County Prosecutor Charles A. Fiore said in a statement that his investigation "is being conducted in accordance with stringent guidelines promulgated by the N.J. Attorney General's Office. This office will release its findings to the public at the appropriate time, but not, obviously, before the completion of its investigation, which involves additional witness interviews and the analysis of forensic evidence. I can assure you that our review will be thorough, impartial and consistent with the Attorney General's guidelines."