Public Statement regarding the May 28, 2014 Toms River Police Officer Involved Shooting
In compliance with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive 2006-5 (July 28, 2015) regarding the uniform statewide procedures and best practices for conducting police officer use-of-force investigations, this public statement is being issued regarding the May 28, 2014 Toms River police officer involved shooting where nobody was struck or injured by a weapon.
The Office of the Attorney General agrees with the findings of Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato that the undisputed facts of this case prove that the use of deadly force by the police officer was legally justified. The Attorney General also agrees that there are no material facts in dispute with regard to the officer’s use of force. Accordingly, a Grand Jury presentation is not warranted.
The facts regarding the use of force are as follows: On May 28, 2014, at approximately 4:16 p.m., two police officers from the Toms River Police Department Special Enforcement Team were conducting surveillance of a residence located on Sprucewood Drive in Toms River. The surveillance was in response to several anonymous complaints that suspected drug activity was occurring in and around a private single family home on Sprucewood Drive. The officers observed a silver Ford Focus containing two males arrive at the home and a female walk out and get in the back seat. The driver and passenger were later identified as Shamar Kerr and Candido Jackson, respectively. The rear seat passenger was identified as Jessica Curcio.
The two police officers followed the silver Ford in an unmarked vehicle as it drove through the neighborhood. The Ford stopped on White Knoll Drive next to a gold Honda Accord. The officers observed activity consistent with a narcotics transaction. After the Honda left the area, both officers, wearing badges and firearms attached to their belts, exited their vehicle and approached the Ford Focus. Both officers identified themselves as police officers and began yelling verbal commands, “Police. Stop! Show us your hands!” These commands were repeated numerous times. It should be noted that this occurred during daylight hours and the weather was clear at the time.
Shamar Kerr drove the Ford toward the front of the officers’ vehicle. The police officers continued to yell commands at Kerr to stop the vehicle. Kerr ignored the commands. The police officers then heard the Ford accelerate as Kerr directed it toward the first officer who was standing next the driver’s side of the police vehicle. The first officer unholstered his weapon and discharged one (1) round in an effort to divert the vehicle which was speeding directly at him. He squeezed himself up against his vehicle to avoid being struck and fired one (1) additional round. The Ford struck the driver’s side door of the police vehicle, slamming it shut. Two bullets struck the Ford. None of the occupants or bystanders were struck by the bullets.
The first officer was not seriously injured during the encounter and stated that he fired at the Ford because he believed that the vehicle was aiming at him and it was immediately necessary to preserve his own life. The second officer did not fire his weapon as the first officer was in his line of fire.
The Ford fled White Knoll Drive at a high rate of speed and a black bag containing nine hundred ninety (990) bags of heroin was thrown out the window. The Ford drove through the dense residential neighborhood at a very high rate of speed and stopped on a nearby street. The driver, Shamar Kerr, exited the Ford before it actually came to a stop. The other two passengers were taken into custody by officers from the Toms River Police Department. The passengers, Jessica Curcio and Candido Jackson were interviewed. Both stated that they (the occupants of the vehicle) all knew that the two individuals wearing badges, showing their weapons and giving commands were, in fact, police officers. Kerr had indicated to Jackson just prior to the encounter that he was suspicious of this unmarked police vehicle and thought it might be the police. Both also indicated that Shamar Kerr tried to run down one of the officers while attempting to escape.
Shamar Kerr was charged with Attempted Murder, Possession of Heroin with the Intent to Distribute, Possession of Heroin and numerous motor vehicle violations and was convicted of Aggravated Assault by a Motor Vehicle-Second Degree and Possession with Intent to Distribute-Second Degree. On September 16, 2016, he was sentenced to nine years in New Jersey State Prison and must serve 85% under the No Early Release Act. Jessica Curcio was charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Possession of Heroin and was convicted of both. On October 14, 2016, she was sentenced to New Jersey’s Drug Court Program and five years in New Jersey State Prison if she failed to complete the program. Candido Jackson was charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin and possession of heroin and was convicted of Loitering to Possess a Controlled Dangerous Substance and received a Probationary sentence.
The Office of the Attorney General and Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato are satisfied that the undisputed facts establish that the Toms River police officers used the appropriate force necessary to protect their own lives and safety and were legally justified in doing so. This investigation was conducted consistent with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive 2006-5 (July 28, 2015) regarding the uniform statewide procedures and best practices for conducting police officer use-of-force investigations.