On May 23, an unarmed black man was fatally shot in Bass River, N.J., after a brief struggle with a police officer, who pulled him over for speeding. On Monday, New Jersey’s state attorney general released about 30 hours’ worth of audio and video files connected to the traffic stop.
NBC News reports that 28-year old Maurice Gordon was stopped on the Garden State Parkway by state police Sgt. Randall Wetzel, who said Gordan was driving 110 mph on the parkway.
Here’s what happened, as reported by NBC:
Dashcam video from the trooper’s vehicle shows that during the stop, Wetzel asks Gordon to move his car because he pulled over in the fast lane rather than on the shoulder, but Gordon says it has died. Wetzel calls for a tow and asks Gordon, “Where do you want to go?”
Gordon says he is headed to a car dealership, and the trooper tells him he can sit in the back seat of his patrol car, as can be heard on the video. Gordon accepts.
“I can give you a ride wherever you’re trying to go,” Wetzel tells Gordon in the video.
Wetzel returned to Gordon after about 20 minutes, opened the back door and offered him a mask, at which point Wetzel “exited the vehicle” and “attempted to enter the driver seat of Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle on two occasions,” according to the attorney general’s release.
After the first attempt, Wetzel pepper-sprayed Gordon, the release says.
“After the second occasion, Sgt. Wetzel removed Mr. Gordon from the vehicle and, after a physical struggle on the left shoulder of the southbound Parkway, Sgt. Wetzel shot and killed Mr. Gordon with his service weapon,” the attorney general’s office said. “Sgt. Wetzel fired six times and then placed handcuffs on Mr. Gordon.”
A state trooper who arrived after the shooting tried to provide aid to Gordon but did not detect a pulse. He was pronounced dead at 7:28 a.m., according to the attorney general’s release.
Looking at the dashcam video, it’s unclear what’s going on once both men are outside of the car, but the report alleges that Gordon went for Wetzel’s gun and drove away in the police car before he was shot.
Also included in the attorney general’s files was an audio recording of a 911 call made by a friend of Gordon’s in Poughkeepsie the day before the shooting. The friend was expressing concerns about Gordon’s wellbeing, reporting that “he just said he was going for a drive, he wouldn’t tell me where he was going. He looked very, very panicked…he said something about a paranormal experience.”
The files also show that Wetzel’s stop was actually the fourth interaction Gordon had with police officers that morning.
Gordon was first approached by an off-duty officer in Red Bank, New Jersey, at 3:13 a.m. when he ran out of gas and was stopped in the middle lane of the southbound Garden State Parkway. The officer called a tow truck and an off-duty state trooper and on-duty state trooper also assisted.
At 4:54 a.m., another state trooper pulled up behind Gordon’s car because it was stopped in the left lane of the southbound Garden State Parkway. The trooper called a tow truck and left before a civilian brought Gordon to a Wawa convenience store to get gas, which was recorded on video.
Gordon got back in his car and kept driving. He is then pulled over at 6:13 a.m. by a state trooper who gives him a ticket for allegedly driving 101 mph.
According to the release, Wetzel pulled Gordon over 10 minutes after the last officer stopped him.
According to USA Today, William O. Wagstaff, an attorney representing Gordon’s family, said Gordan’s mother and sister are “outraged” that they couldn’t view the footage before it was released to the public.
“They were hurt. They were beside themselves. Both of them were in my arms crying uncontrollably. Because of what they felt was the further victimization of this family,” Wagstaff said. “It was radio silent for a matter of hours, it’s released to the public and the family is receiving text messages from people saying that they believe that it is on YouTube.”
The attorney general’s office claims it offered multiple ways to view and listen to the footage, but Wagstaff called that offer an “unreasonable request” for the family to travel from New York to Whippany, N.J., on short notice.
Wetzel is currently on paid administrative leave. Gordon’s mother, Racquel Barrett, isn’t happy about that as she doesn’t believe Wetzel is as innocent of wrongdoing as the report makes him out to be.
“I think the police need to be charged, Barrett told MSNBC. “I don’t think he should be on leave, getting paid, because it’s just distasteful and everything, you know. I have no words; it’s just distasteful.”
Barrett described her son as “the most amazing, amazing person.”
“He’s a wonderful son,” she said. “My life will never ever ever be the same again. I lost a piece of me—that’s my son.”