Police ‘justified’ in shooting that left unarmed NJ man paralyzed, grand jury says
TRENTON — A police detective who shot an unarmed Black man inside a car on a city street was justified in his use of force, a Mercer County Grand Jury has decided.
Jajuan Henderson, 29, of Burlington, was shot four times in an incident after midnight Feb. 12, 2022, while he was sitting in the driver’s seat of a 2003 Saturn Ion outside a Trenton residence.
The shots were fired after he had started the car and rammed into two parked vehicles.
Henderson was left partially paralyzed and has since filed a lawsuit against the city and the police officers involved.
No officers were hurt during the incident.
All four officers were placed on paid administrative leave as their response was reviewed.
Evidence presented to a Mercer County Grand Jury included body worn camera recordings, photographs of the scene, ballistics, and statements from the officers.
The case was presented for review in March, after which grand jurors ultimately found that the actions of the detective who shot Henderson were a legally justified use of force.
Body camera footage shows Trenton officers involved in Henderson incident
Body camera footage was released in March 2022 from all four officers involved.
At least one of the clips shows two uniformed officers standing at the driver’s side car window, speaking with Henderson.
Officers repeatedly tell Henderson to get out of the car and say “You understand that you’re under arrest, right?”
He does not move, while speaking to the officers, as one gives several warnings that he will break the window if Henderson doesn’t step out.
An officer is heard telling Henderson to "stop reaching under the f***ing seat."
A lot of what Henderson says is muffled from inside the car — at one point one of the officers says back “We are the cops.”
As the window smashes, Henderson is heard screaming and starts the car, ramming the parked vehicle in front, then backing into another behind.
After the Ion hits the second parked car, shots are heard.
Trenton detective who fired shots was ‘in fear of his life’ and lives of other officers
“Henderson’s vehicle was parked in a high crime area near a house suspected for complaints of Prostitution,” according to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.
The investigation was transferred to that office after a potential conflict of interest was found between the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and the Trenton Police Department.
Det. Michael Gettler is the officer who broke the driver’s window in trying to make the arrest and who ultimately fired all four shots.
“The Officer stated that he was in fear of his life and the lives of his colleagues when he decided to discharge his weapon,” a release from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office said, in announcing the grand jury decision.
“The Officer believed that discharging his weapon was necessary for the protection of his life and the lives of his colleagues.”
Henderson faced charges for potentially hurting officers, those were then dropped
Shortly after the incident, Henderson was charged with four counts of aggravated assault, for "attempting to cause serious bodily injury" to officers standing near the car.
The counts of aggravated assault were then dropped, but Henderson was also charged with resisting arrest and obstruction.
In his lawsuit, Henderson said he had been sitting in a car outside of his girlfriend's residence, when men dressed in dark clothing jumped out of unmarked vehicles and demanded he open his door.