Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni released a statement saying the use of deadly force by an Asbury Park police officer regarding a non-fatal shooting in Asbury Park in November was justified.
The entire matter has been reviewed by the acting prosecutor and his staff at the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.
On Nov. 4, 2015, at approximately 7:15 p.m., 20-year old Asbury Park resident Dante Allen was shot after first firing his weapon at a uniformed Asbury Park police officer (Officer #1) near the intersection of Atkins and Springwood Avenues. Allen suffered non-life threatening injuries to his left leg and was subsequently arrested and charged with Attempted Murder, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, and Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose.
Following the incident, MCPO detectives conducted an investigation into the circumstances and events leading up to the shooting. During the course of the investigation, detectives documented the scene, recovered video and ballistic evidence, interviewed all officers on the scene, including Officer #1 and a number of civilian witnesses with relevant information.
Based on the results of the investigation, this Office determined that Officer #1’s use of deadly force was clearly necessary to protect him from imminent death or serious bodily injury. No criminal charges were filed against Officer #1 and the matter was not presented to a grand jury. The Division of Criminal Justice, Office of the Attorney General, reviewed the MCPO’s investigation and concurred with the conclusion that the use of deadly force was legally justified. Additionally, the Division of Criminal Justice agreed with the MCPO’s determination that the case forego presentation to a grand jury.
The investigation revealed that on Nov. 4, 2015, Officer #1 was working in full Class A uniform, in a marked patrol car, and was assigned to the southwest quadrant of the City of Asbury Park. At approximately 7:15 p.m., Officer #1 was stopped at the intersection of Boston Way and Atkins Avenue and he observed two (2) males standing in front of the Atkins Deli having a conversation. Officer #1 observed one of the males look in his direction, and immediately say goodbye to his friend by pounding his fist and walked away. This male, later identified as Allen, pulled his hood over his head and covered his face as he walked away. Officer #1 also noticed that Allen seemed to be clutching something on his left side, under his sweatshirt. While Allen walked, his right hand swung freely but his left hand was clutched to his side. These observations led Officer #1 to suspect that Allen might be carrying a gun.
After watching Allen for another minute continuing to clutch his side, Officer #1 conducted a field stop of Allen. Officer #1 stopped his patrol vehicle on the west side of Atkins Avenue just before the intersection with Springwood Avenue. Allen was ahead of Officer #1 and he called out to Allen and asked to speak with him. Allen stopped, immediately reached into his right back pocket and said “I have my ID right here.” Allen kept his left hand inside his sweatshirt pouch/pocket and tight to his side. Officer #1 said to him, “Let me see your hands.” Allen continued to take his wallet out with his right hand and held it over his head, seeming to try and remove his identification with one hand. Officer #1 noticed that Allen was trying to distract him by holding the wallet away from his body. He also noted that Allen started to turn his body, specifically his left side, away from Officer #1. Officer #1 repeated that he wanted to see Allen’s hands twice but Allen failed to comply.
Allen then took his left hand out of the sweatshirt pocket and was moving it under the sweatshirt. Officer #1 repeated “let me see your hands.” Officer #1 then used his right hand to touch the left side of Allen’s body where Allen’s hand was moving toward and he immediately felt the butt of a gun. Allen immediately swatted Officer #1’s hand away and began to run westbound on Springwood Avenue. Officer #1 chased after Allen and pulled out his service weapon. Officer #1 yelled to Allen to stop running, but Allen continued to run past the building toward an open field. As he entered the field area, Allen turned toward Officer #1 while still running and fired his gun at him. Officer #1 immediately returned fire at Allen. At the time Officer #1 returned fire, the area was well lit, there were no people in the background, and he could clearly see Allen.
Allen fell to the ground in the field. Officer #1 radioed that shots had been fired and requested assistance, and then used his flashlight to search the immediate area for Allen’s gun while holding Allen down. Officer #1 saw the gun just a few inches away and he handcuffed Allen. At that time, Officer #2 responded to the scene to back up Officer #1. Officer #1 told Officer #2 to secure the gun – a 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun – which he did. Officer #1 noticed blood on Allen’s clothing and determined he had been shot in the leg. Consequently, Officer #1 put pressure on the wound until other officers arrived to continue first aid.
While officers were responding to the call for shots fired, the Monmouth County Communications Center (911) received a report that a child had been shot at a house on Borden Avenue, a residence located on the far side of the open field where Allen was arrested. The injured eight-year old child was inside her house watching television when a shot came through the wall and grazed her forehead. Officer #2 immediately went to the residence, picked up the child, and brought her to the ambulance. The child was transported to Jersey Shore University
Medical Center and treated for a superficial wound to the forehead and was released the same night. The MCPO is awaiting the results of tests to determine if the bullet which grazed the child came from Officer #1’s gun. The New Jersey State Police Ballistics Unit is currently conducting those tests.
A female witness who lives on Springwood Avenue provided a statement. She had been sitting on her porch when she heard the sound of gunshots. She saw a male running and an officer running behind him. She heard the officer tell the male to put the weapon down. She also indicated in her statement that “the bad guy shot first and the officer shot back.”
Surveillance video from nearby building cameras contains video footage of the field stop and the shooting. The footage fully corroborated Officer #1’s account of the field stop and the shooting, including the fact that Allen shot at Officer #1 first as he fled from Officer #1. The charges filed against Allen are pending presentation to a Monmouth County Grand Jury.