Videos continue to capture the deaths of unarmed black people by law enforcement. In New Jersey, a state trooper shot and killed an unarmed black man on May 23, just two days before George Floyd literally succumbing to the pressure of a Minneapolis police officer’s knee on his neck.
Maurice Gordon, 28, Poughkeepsie, New York, was pulled over on the Garden State Parkway (GSP) near Bass River by Sgt. Randall Wetzel for speeding. Gordon’s black Honda Civic was disabled, and as they awaited a tow truck, Wetzel told Gordon to sit in his police cruiser until the tow truck arrived. Dash-cam footage in the police car recorded what happened next.
A Paranormal Experience
Gordon’s death was the culmination of several strange episodes occurring the previous day. At 3:22 a.m. on May 22, a friend in Poughkeepsie was concerned enough about Gordon’s behavior that they called 911. The friend told the 911 dispatcher that Gordon looked “really panicked,” said he had a paranormal experience, and needed to go for a drive. He also told the friend he was a “law-abiding citizen.”
More than 24 hours later, an off-duty police officer and off-duty state trooper assisted Gordon when he ran out of gas on the GSP in Brick Township. While a tow truck brought gas, Gordon’s fuel tank was empty just two hours later, still on the GSP. Another state trooper called a tow truck to the Waretown scene.
Just after 6 a.m., yet another state trooper pulled Gordon over for speeding and issued him a ticket. Twenty minutes later, Gordon would encounter Wetzel in a disabled vehicle by the side of the road.
It is not clear why Gordon was in South Jersey on that day. A chemistry student at Dutchess County Community College, Gordon also worked as an Uber driver. It is possible, although not certain, that Gordon may have gone to the Bass River area to pick up a fare.
Friends considered Gordon a devout Christian, noting he always carried a Bible in his car. He came to the U.S. from Spanish Town, Jamaica.
While Gordon was sitting in the back of Wetzel’s police car, the state trooper offered him a mask. As he was handing it to Gordon, Gordon exits the vehicle. Wetzel tells Gordon to reenter the police car, and he tries to get back in via the driver’s side of the vehicle. At this point, the two men apparently begin fighting.
Wetzel used pepper spray on Gordon, but Gordon continued to try to enter the car through the driver’s side. Wetzel pulls him away, and the two continue sparring. Then six shots are fired. According to Wetzel, Gordon attempted to grab his gun, and he shot him. Gordon was unarmed. The time between Gordon exiting the car and getting shot was about one minute.
By the time EMS arrived at 7:25 a.m, Gordon was dead.
Since the killing, Wetzel has been placed on administrative leave while an investigation is conducted. The video and audio recordings are part of the attorney general’s use of force investigation.
For two weeks, the videos were not released. Then, on the eve of Gordon’s funeral, the video was released by the attorney general’s office, before the family had the opportunity to view it. Their attorney said he “just can’t imagine the insensitivity” on the part of the attorney general’s office.
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