By: TAYLOR DUFFIELD
Just five days after last year’s Christmas celebration, footage from a Cumberland County police officer’s dashboard camera replayed a fatal and controversial story of a man’s final moments before his death.
On December 30, 2014, a 36-year-old African-American man, Jerame Reid, was shot to death by two police officers during a routine traffic stop for allegedly running a stop sign in Bridgeton, New Jersey. Reid was sitting on the passenger side of the vehicle. Officers Braheme Days and Roger Worley promptly discovered a firearm in the glove compartment of the vehicle when they approached the Jaguar to speak with the driver.
Upon discovering the weapon, the two officers commanded the driver, Leroy Tutt, and Reid not to move. Despite the numerous warnings from the officers, Reid insisted on exiting the vehicle, which resulted in the officers opening fire on him. Within five minutes of being pulled over, Reid had been shot over six times to death.
The video left room for many questions to be asked of American citizens’ rights and the obligations of our citizens as well as our police force. Bridgeton police and Reid supporters continue to hold their ground advocating for opposite sides of the event. One puzzling question seems to separate the two groups entirely: was the use of deadly force justified in the death of Jerame Reid?
Many believe the Bridgeton officers’ decision to act with force was justified in these specific circumstances. They agree that incompliance with the officers’ instructions was blatant misconduct and could easily be viewed as threatening. An officer’s first instinct is to prepare for either a fleeing attempt or an attempt to fight when a passenger is determined to exit the car in such a situation. Supporters feel as though that by preparing for the worst, perhaps Days and Worley may have escaped a fate far worse.
Although it is impossible to ever truly know what Reid’s intentions for leaving the vehicle were, it is not far fetched to deduce that Days’ and Worley’s life may have been in danger because of Reid’s expansive criminal background. When Jerame Reid was only a tee nager, a deadly shoot out between him and three New Jersey State Troopers landed him in state prison for 13 years. His rap sheet also includes charges for resisting arrest as well as possession of narcotics just last summer.
Those opposed to Days’ and Worley’s actions on that December night have met in protest twice to march down South Avenue towards the Cumberland County Courthouse. Their chants and signs express their opinion of injustice through their slogan, “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” This is in reference to the body language Reid displayed during the police cruiser’s dashboard camera footage. The saying “hands up, don’t shoot” originated when an unarmed African-American male was shot and killed by a Caucasian police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The six-minute video clip clarifies that Reid did in fact have his hands raised in the air as he attempted to step out of the vehicle as he is shot. Protesters argue that this proves Reid’s intentions were not violent in nature, and therefore, the officers were too quick to pull the trigger.
Perhaps the officers had reacted beyond the code of ethics, just as they have done in the past. The two police officers have both had an extensive reputation of abuse in the past. Within the past two years, seven municipal court complaints have been filed against officer Braheme Days, African-American, for his alleged abuse of power. Officer Roger Worley, Caucasian, has also had at least two complaints filed against him.
Another key factor of the fatal exchange is the established relationship between the men. Officer Days and Reid were not strangers to each other so perhaps Days was biased during the event. In the dash cam video, Days even addresses Reid by his first name revealing that the two men were familiar with each other. Officer Days had assisted in the arrest of Jerame Reid the summer of 2014, less than six months before his death.
For now, the two officers remain on leave since the event. At this time, when our nation is still recovering from the impact of the death of Michael Brown, another alleged police brutality claim understandably sends tempers flaring. Although the court has yet to make a ruling, the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office investigation has spent time reviewing the sequence of events that took place December 30 on Henry St.