NJ State Troopers violated civil rights, together with in taking pictures: lawsuits

CAMDEN – Two recent federal lawsuits alleged violations of civil rights during traffic stops by New Jersey State Police officers, including an encounter that resulted in fatal shooting of a man.

A suit charges more than $ 50 million for the property and parents of Maurice Gordon Jr., who was shot six times and killed by a soldier on Garden State Parkway in May 2020.

The other is seeking unspecified damages for James Moore, a senior citizen who claims he was a victim of false arrests and malicious persecution following a traffic obstruction on the parkway in June 2018.

The attorney general declined to comment on the lawsuits filed in federal court in Camden on March 11th.

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Among other things, Gordon’s death lawsuit alleges that New Jersey State Police officers have “a history of racism” in using violence against black motorists like Gordon.

“The family alleges that Junior’s constitutional and other rights have been violated and that racism in police work has resulted in excessive violence and the unjustified death of Junior and is calling for a judicial process by the jury,” Attorney William Wagstaff III said in a statement .

Maurice Gordon Jr. and police officer Randall Wetzel are shown during a traffic obstruction on the Garden State Parkway that resulted in Gordon's death in May 2020.

The suit also claims that soldiers lack adequate guidelines and training on how to deal with people who “have health emergencies or emotionally disturbed people”.

It is said that Gordon, a 28-year-old man who has been described as “unhappy in the past with psychiatric difficulties,” appeared to have run out of gas three times while driving south on the parkway in the hours before his death

The resident of Poughkeepsie, New York, was also stopped for speeding on the parkway at the same time.

BACKGROUND:A New York man killed by an NJSP soldier on the parkway demands answers

EARLIER:NJ AG: Soldier investigation into Parkway shooting completed

Gordon’s travels had begun the day before when a friend called the Poughkeepsie police at around 3:30 am and had “concerns about Junior’s state of mind,” the lawsuit said.

An off duty New Jersey police officer met Gordon about 24 hours later and about 135 miles from his home. He was in a car that had stopped in the center lane of the parkway near Exit 92 in Brick, Ocean County.

Maurice Gordon Jr. sits in a police vehicle during a traffic obstruction on the Garden State Parkway in Bass River, Burlington County in May 2020.

After a tow truck driver provided some gasoline, Gordon drove on – but ran out of fuel further south near Exit 72 in Waretown, Ocean County.

This time someone drove to a wawa where Gordon could get more gasoline around 5:50 am and continue his journey

According to the lawsuit, Gordon was charged with speeding near Exit 62 in Stafford at around 6:13 a.m.

At the time, the suit said Gordon told a soldier that he drove “to the end of the video game.”

Gordon’s last encounter with the police was at 6:23 a.m. near Exit 50 in Bass River, where he was stopped for speeding by Trooper Randall Wetzel.

The suit states that Wetzel did not wear a body camera, but the patrol car’s dashboard camera recorded part of the incident.

“They passed me at 110 mph,” Wetzel Gordon said, according to a video released by the Attorney General’s office.

Gordon’s vehicle, which had stopped in the high-speed lane, was again out of gas, according to the lawsuit.

A report from the attorney general said the soldier and Gordon were waiting at the scene for a tow truck to arrive.

“Look, I’m trying to help you,” said Wetzel once.

“Do you take any medication or something?” the soldier asks minutes later.

The suit states that Wetzel described Gordon as “a little disoriented” and “slightly sullen and disengaged”. The soldier searched Gordon and then “invited” him to sit in the back of the police vehicle for safety reasons in front of the passing traffic.

The camera shows Gordon sitting still for about 20 minutes while Wetzel questions him repeatedly about his destination, and then takes off his seat belt.

“You can’t go,” says Wetzel. “You’re on the side of the road.”

But when Wetzel opens a door to give him a mask, Gordon gets out of the car, as the video shows.

Gordon “was immediately physically engaged to Wetzel, who repeatedly ordered him to get into the car,” the suit reads.

The men wrestled on the side of the road for a little more than a minute.

The suit says Wetzel “pushed and pulled” Gordon and at one point sprayed him with a chemical irritant.

It is said that Gordon “resisted” the soldier’s “push and pull” and tried twice to access the front seat of the police vehicle.

But it is claimed that Gordon “does not appear to have attacked or otherwise defended himself”.

It is said that during a final confrontation behind the vehicle at 7:08 am, Wetzel fired six shots “in quick succession”

The suit claims Gordon was handcuffed after the shooting and did not receive first aid until 7:25 p.m.

“At this point in time, no pulse could be detected,” it says.

Wagstaff, the attorney for Gordon’s family, said he hoped the lawsuit would provide “answers to questions about Junior’s final moments … and the actions of the local forces.”

The attorney general said the shooting is still under investigation.

The defendants in the lawsuit include Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, Superintendent of the State Police, Colonel Patrick Callahan, and Wetzel.

The lawsuit seeks $ 50 million in damages, punitive damages and reimbursement of legal costs.

In the second lawsuit, Moore alleges he was wrongly charged with driving after an early morning obstruction on the Parkway in Wall, Monmouth County, while driving while drunk and reckless.

Moore, a North Carolina resident who also uses an Atlantic City address, claims the police have no “legal ground or justification” for the allegations made against him.

In a report by Trooper JL Keller, Moore, then 67, was described as “very confused” and said he failed the sobriety tests after a traffic obstruction at 1:40 am.

But the suit claims a breath test carried out after Moore was handcuffed and taken to a state police barracks showed no alcohol in his system.

Another soldier, identified as U. Boyd, is said to have conducted a “Drug Recognition Expert” assessment which found Moore to be under the influence of a “suspected central nervous system depressant.”

However, the lawsuit states that, despite a court order, the Moore prosecutor never provided the appraiser’s assessment.

“They were unable to produce any evidence to support the complaint, not even a scintilla,” said Moore’s Philadelphia attorney Jonathan James on Tuesday.

“It’s incredibly suspicious,” said James, who found Moore had seven court appearances as a result of his arrest.

The DWI and the reckless driving fees were dismissed in March 2019, the lawsuit said.

Moore pleaded guilty to an unsafe lane change “which he now wants to evacuate,” he adds.

The lawsuit named Boyd and Keller as defendants who alleged they had “united and conspired” to violate Moore’s civil rights.

Jim Walsh reports for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times, and the Daily Journal. His interests include crime, the courts, and the first news. Reach him at [email protected].

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