Camden City N.J.(CNBNewsnet)-- The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office (CCPO) has completed its investigation into August 23, 2021, use of force by Officer Vincent Leonetti of the Monroe Township Police Department and Sergeant James Graham of the Deptford Township Police Department, and has concluded that the use of force was legally justified. CCPO determined that it is not necessary to present this matter to the Grand Jury because there were no material facts in dispute regarding the lawfulness of the use of force. The investigation was conducted in accordance with the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive No. 2019-4 (December 4, 2019, Directive Ensuring the Independent Investigation of Criminal Cases Involving Police Use-of-Force or In-Custody Deaths) (“Directive”). Pursuant to the Directive, the Attorney General’s Office conducted an independent review of the use of force and agreed with CCPO’s determination that there were no material facts in dispute and that the uses of force by the Officers, in this case, were justified. The Attorney General’s Office concurred with CCPO’s conclusion to forego the presentation of this matter to the Grand Jury.
The incident occurred on August 23, 2021, at Cape Cod Drive in Deptford Township. Officers from multiple jurisdictions engaged in a search for an individual wanted in Pennsylvania for Attempted Murder, and who had stolen a police vehicle earlier in the day. Officer Leonetti, Sergeant Graham, and a third officer were dispatched to the area of Cape Cod Drive and Barnesboro Road to help with the search. The officers saw the wanted individual and ordered him to surrender. The individual entered the backyard of a nearby residence, and Officer Leonetti pursued the suspect. The suspect, armed with a handgun, opened fire on Officer Leonetti, who was struck in the ear and the hand. Officer Leonetti returned fire, and the suspect walked to the front of the home. The suspect saw Sergeant Graham in the driveway and opened fire on Sergeant Graham. Sergeant Graham was not injured and was able to return fire. The suspect was struck and later collapsed in front of the home. Medical aid was immediately given to the suspect. Officer Leonetti was transported to a hospital and treated for his injuries.
Applying the Directive to the undisputed material facts outlined above, the force used by the Officers was justified pursuant to NJSA 2C:3-4, Use of Force in Self-Protection and NJSA 2C:3-5, Use of Force in Protection of others. The statute states that “the use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.” The law defines a “reasonable belief” as one which would be held by a person of ordinary prudence and intelligence situated as the actor was.
Both Officers stated that they were in fear for their lives when they wanted suspect opened fire on them. The Officers believed that discharging their weapons was necessary for the protection of their lives. An independent analysis of the undisputed material facts led to the determination that the Officers’ beliefs were reasonable, and the uses of force in this matter were justified pursuant to all applicable laws and the Attorney General Guidelines. This statement was prepared and disseminated to the public in accordance with §8 of the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive No. 2019-4.