AG’s Office Releases Video Footage and 911 Call Related to Fatal Police-Involved Shooting In Bayonne
TRENTON – The Attorney General’s Office today released video footage from body worn cameras (BWCs) and a 911 call related to the death of Lee Waskiewicz, 47, of Bayonne, N.J., who died on June 7 when Bayonne Police Officers Edward Taveras and Timothy Ballance, Jr. fired their service weapons at him, fatally wounding him. The fatal incident remains under investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA). The recordings are being released in response to an OPRA request and pursuant to policies established by the Attorney General in 2019 that are designed to promote the fair, impartial, and transparent investigation of fatal police encounters. Prior to today’s release, investigators discussed the matter with Mr. Waskiewicz’s relatives and provided them copies of the recordings to review.
According to the preliminary investigation, uniformed officers of the Bayonne Police Department responded to a 911 call made at approximately 6:30 a.m. reporting a domestic disturbance at a residence in the first block of West 1st Street. When officers arrived, they met a resident, who spoke to them about Mr. Waskiewicz.
The resident escorted the officers into the home and called Mr. Waskiewicz down from the third floor. Upon seeing the police officers, Mr. Waskiewicz went back upstairs and out of sight in the doorway of an attic. When Officer Taveras asked Mr. Waskiewicz to come down to talk to him, Mr. Waskiewicz yelled for the officers to leave and threatened to stab them. Mr. Waskiewicz came back to the stairs armed with a knife.
During a second interaction in the stairwell, Officers Ballance and Taveras fired their service weapons, fatally wounding Mr. Waskiewicz. Officers rendered medical aid until emergency medical personnel arrived and transported Mr. Waskiewicz to Bayonne Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased at approximately 7:43 a.m. The recordings being released today include video footage from the BWCs of three Bayonne police officers, including Officers Taveras and Ballance, and an audio recording of the 911 call.
The recordings are posted online: Click here for recordings. This investigation is being conducted pursuant to a state law enacted in January 2019 (P.L. 2019, c.1), which requires that the Attorney General’s Office conduct all investigations of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody. Separately, the Independent Prosecutor Directive, which was issued by Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal in December 2019, outlines a 10-step process for conducting these investigations.
The Directive establishes clear procedures governing such investigations to ensure that they are conducted in a full, impartial and transparent manner. Under both state law and the Directive, when the entire investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury, typically consisting of 16 to 23 citizens, to make the ultimate decision regarding whether criminal charges will be filed. A copy of the Directive is available at this link:https://www.nj.gov/oag/excellence/docs/2019-4_Independent_Prosecutor_Directive.pdf,and a summary of that 10-step process is available at this link:https://www.nj.gov/oag/excellence/docs/The-Independent-Prosecutor-Directive.pdf