Prosecutor’s Office Releases Findings of Fatal Officer Involved Shooting Investigation
In compliance with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive regarding uniform statewide procedures and best practices for conducting police use-of-force investigations, this public statement is being issued regarding the findings resulting from the investigation of the fatal police-involved shooting that occurred on August 23, 2015 on Cherrywood Circle in Brick Township.
Although there is a presumption of grand jury review when the use of force results in death, the directive provides that the county prosecutor is not required to present the matter to the grand jury where the undisputed facts indicate that the use of force was justifiable under the law. Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato has determined that the undisputed facts of this case indicate that the use of deadly force was justifiable under the law, and that presentation of the matter to the grand jury is not required. The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General concurs with Prosecutor Coronato’s findings.
With regard to the factual circumstances which resulted in the use of lethal force by the police in this case, the investigation revealed that on Sunday, August 23, 2015, Julian Hoffman, age 21, of Cherrywood Circle, Brick Township, made a telephone call to 911 from his residence at approximately 10:50 p.m. Hoffman called to report a “disturbance.” When asked by the dispatcher to describe the nature of the disturbance, Hoffman responded that he was the disturbance. He told the dispatcher, “I’m raising hell.”
Separate interviews of each of the three (3) Brick Township Police Officers who were present when Julian Hoffman was fatally injured were conducted. Brick Township Police Officers 1 and 2 were dispatched to the residence and arrived there within minutes. As the officers approached the door to the residence, they heard someone scream and several loud bangs. One officer approached the front door and rang the doorbell. The other officer was standing to the side of the door from a position that did not afford a view of the doorway. Julian Hoffman answered the door with what appeared to be a handgun in his hand. Hoffman said, “What’s up? Do something.” The officer who could see Hoffman yelled that Hoffman had a gun. Both officers quickly ran from the doorway area to take cover. They positioned themselves behind motor vehicles that were parked nearby. Hoffman exited his residence with the weapon in his hand. He walked away from his residence and advanced toward the officers. The officers were yelling commands for Hoffman to drop the weapon and not to advance on them. Hoffman ignored the commands. A third Brick Township police officer arrived and assumed a position near the other two officers behind a motor vehicle. Hoffman looked at the officers and said, “Just do it.” Despite numerous and repeated commands to Hoffman to drop his weapon, Hoffman began to raise the weapon in the direction of one of the Brick officers. Fearing that Hoffman was about to shoot one of the officers, two (2) of the officers discharged their duty weapons, fatally injuring Hoffman. A total of eight (8) rounds were discharged by two of the officers. Officer 1 discharged four (4) rounds. Officer 2 also discharged four (4) rounds. Three (3) projectiles struck Julian Hoffman. The third officer did not discharge his duty weapon.
The weapon recovered from Hoffman was an imitation firearm (See photograph of the weapon below).
An autopsy determined that Julian Hoffman died as a result of a bullet wound to the chest. Toxicology results showed that Hoffman’s blood alcohol level was .208 and there was evidence that he had ingested cocaine.
Subsequent investigation revealed that on the evening of August 23, 2015, Hoffman and his girlfriend had an argument while they were attending a party. The argument continued as they drove home from the party. Once they arrived home, Hoffman told his girlfriend that he was going to “raise hell”. Hoffman told her he was going to “call the cops”. He then retrieved what she described as a black BB gun from within the residence. The girlfriend told investigators that Hoffman pleaded with her to let him end his life. The girlfriend heard Hoffman call the police to “report a disturbance”. Hoffman then pushed his girlfriend into his bedroom and barricaded the door so that she could not leave the room. The girlfriend was in the bedroom during the encounter between Hoffman and the police. She did not see what transpired between Hoffman and the officers.
The residence was equipped with a home security-type video surveillance camera. Despite exhaustive efforts by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office to preserve and analyze video evidence of the events which transpired between Julian Hoffman and the Brick Township Police Officers which resulted in Hoffman’s death from the homeowner’s security system, the investigation determined that no video evidence could be recovered because the homeowner’s security system settings were programmed to overwrite video on a predetermined schedule to save storage space.
After analyzing all of the facts and circumstances of this incident within the context of the use-of-force policy promulgated by the New Jersey Attorney General, it is the conclusion of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office that Officers 1 and 2 used an acceptable level of force in unholstering, pointing and firing their weapons at Hoffman. The facts and circumstances reasonably led Officers 1 and 2 to believe that their actions in discharging their firearms were immediately necessary to protect their own lives as well as the lives of the other officers present.
The entire matter has been reviewed by Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato and all portions of the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive regarding uniform statewide procedures and best practices for conducting police use-of-force investigations that were in effect during the course of the investigation were complied with.
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