DEPTFORD NJ --Gloucester County Prosecutor Charles A. Fiore today issued the following public statement regarding the outcome of an investigation into a police use-of-deadly-force incident that occurred in the County of Gloucester. This statement is issued in accordance with the July 28, 2015, Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive Amending Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2006-5.
On June 9, 2018, Sgt. Kevin Clements of the Deptford Township Police Department discharged his service weapon, causing the death of Lashanda Anderson, 36, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while working on duty in the Township of Deptford. A comprehensive conflicts inquiry required pursuant to Section 3 of the Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive was conducted and no conflicts were identified. The matter was reviewed by the County Prosecutor and all relevant provisions of the Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive were complied with.
The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office conducted an investigation that included interviews of civilian and police witnesses, searches for and review of any available video footage, submission of evidence for examination by the New Jersey State Police-Ballistics Unit, analysis of data from the airbag control module (“black box”) of an involved vehicle (a 2018 Nissan Armada bearing PA registration JBX4011) and medical examination reports.
The results of the investigation were presented to a Grand Jury in Gloucester County. The Grand Jury declined to issue an Indictment regarding Sgt. Clements’ use of force.
The event began at the Marshalls retail store and parking lot located at 1800 Clements Bridge Road in Deptford, New Jersey. A Loss Prevention Officer (“LPO”) employed by Marshalls phoned Gloucester County Communications at approximately 3:38 pm to report that three people, later identified as Raoul Gadson, Chanel Barnes, and Lashanda Anderson, were shoplifting, and the offense was in progress. The LPO told the dispatcher that he was familiar with the individuals from prior encounters and organized retail theft briefings; moreover, the LPO reported that one of the subjects was wanted for manslaughter. The three individuals, without paying, left the store holding merchandise valued at $3,433.41, followed by the reporting LPO and a second LPO with whom he was working. The reporting LPO remained on the line with the dispatcher as he followed the three out of the store.
The dispatcher radioed Deptford police officers alerting them to the shoplifting in progress. Sgt. Clements and Capt. William Bittner of the Deptford Township Police Department, both of whom were stationed nearby at the Deptford Mall, responded to Marshalls in separate police vehicles. Sgt. Clements responded in a marked police vehicle, and Capt. Bittner responded in an unmarked vehicle. The dispatcher advised that one of the suspects was a “hit” for a “homicide.” She further reported to the officers that one of the suspects was running and that she could hear scuffling with the LPO, who was screaming.
The information provided by the LPO that one of the suspects was wanted for homicide was incorrect. Neither Mr. Gadson, Ms. Barnes, nor Ms. Anderson was wanted for a “hit” for any homicide offense on June 9, 2018.
Capt. Bittner approached a group of individuals actively fighting, namely, Chanel Barnes, Lashanda Anderson, and three males. The fight occurred behind a sports utility vehicle (“SUV”) a 2018 Nissan Armada bearing Pennsylvania registration tag JBX4011. Raoul Gadson, the third shoplifting suspect, fled either before or during the police arrival; he was arrested several days later and charged with robbery and related offenses.
As Capt. Bittner approached the group, Ms. Anderson disengaged from the fight and entered the driver’s side of the SUV. Before the driver’s door was closed, Capt. Bittner drew his department-issued handgun and pointed it at Ms. Anderson in a show of constructive force, commanding Ms. Anderson to exit from the vehicle. She did not comply with the command. Capt. Bittner holstered his handgun and approached the driver door. As he reached into the open driver door, Ms. Anderson started the SUV and accelerated at a high rate of speed, causing the driver’s door to close and strike Capt. Bittner in the shoulder.
The SUV traveled a distance of about 50 feet and stopped suddenly, allowing Ms. Barnes to enter it from the passenger side. Ms. Barnes had fled on foot and was being pursued by Sgt. Clements from another direction. Capt. Bittner continued his pursuit of the SUV on foot, removing an expandable baton from his duty belt. When he closed the distance to about 10 feet, Capt. Bittner threw the baton at the SUV’s rear window to either break or damage it, making it more easily identifiable should the suspects escape. The rear window shattered completely. Multiple witnesses estimated that Sgt. Clements was standing between 12 and 25 feet in front of the vehicle. Sgt. Clements had drawn his department-issued handgun, ordering Ms. Anderson to stop and exit the vehicle. Instead, the SUV accelerated quickly towards him. Sgt. Clements, fearing for his life, fired three shots in rapid succession while moving toward his right to get out of the SUV’s way.
After Sgt. Clements fired, the SUV began to turn and traveled through the Marshalls parking lot in a wide arc, over a curb, and down an embankment, striking an access road that was approximately four feet below the grade of the parking lot, causing the airbag to deploy. It came to final rest on an embankment adjoining that access road. An analysis of the SUV’s airbag control module indicated that the SUV was traveling at speeds ranging from 19 mph to 22 mph for the five seconds preceding its impact with the access road.
Ms. Barnes, the front seat passenger, was removed from the SUV and taken to a local hospital, where she was cleared for release that same night. She was arrested and charged with shoplifting.
The Gloucester County Medical Examiner concluded after examining Ms. Anderson that she died from multiple (two) gunshot wounds. One gunshot wound was to the left side of Ms. Anderson’s head, and the other to her right elbow.
One projectile entered the bottom center of the SUV’s windshield, and another entered the right hood and struck the windshield just below the inspection sticker without entering the passenger compartment. A third penetrated the driver’s side mirror and window. Observation of these defects with trajectory rods and accompanying measurements are consistent with the following: (1) the projectile that entered the bottom center of the windshield was discharged from a firearm that was in front of the vehicle at the time of discharge, and (2) the projectile that entered through the driver’s side mirror and window was discharged from a firearm in the area toward the front of the driver’s side of the vehicle, from front to back.
Neither Mr. Gadson’s nor Ms. Barnes’ pending criminal charges were considered by this Grand Jury. Those matters are pending. Each is presumed innocent of those charges unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Further information on the July 28, 2015, Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive Amending Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2006-5 may be found at https://www.state.nj.us/lps/dcj/agguide/directives/2006-5_SRT_OIS.pdf.