Elizabeth Police Department Officers’ Use of Force Deemed Legally Justified
In accordance with the Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive Amending the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive No. 2006-5, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office is releasing the following public statement regarding use of deadly force by two Elizabeth Police Department officers.
At approximately 11:15 p.m. on September 16, 2016, six members of the Elizabeth Police Department who had just completed an overtime duty assignment went to a local pizzeria located at the intersection of Washington Avenue and South Street in Elizabeth to eat. Two members of the group were dressed in full police uniform, while the other members were wearing plain clothes with police markings across their chests and police badges around their necks.
One day earlier, a detective who was part of this group had received information indicating that defendant Farris Taielkrim had been involved in a recent alleged robbery in Elizabeth. Based on this information, the detective obtained a photo of Taielkrim and issued a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) alert to local law enforcement.
While at the pizzeria, the detective observed a vehicle backing into a driveway across the street and looked on as the driver – later identified as Taielkrim – got out of the car, went to the trunk, removed a handgun from the trunk, and placed it in his waistband. The detective then alerted his fellow officers of his observations, and they all immediately exited the pizzeria to investigate further.
The detective approached Taielkrim, immediately identified himself as a police officer, and told Taielkrim to stop. Taielkrim ignored the command, and following a brief physical struggle, ultimately managed to enter his vehicle and start it.
Taielkrim then began driving directly toward the group of other officers, who were located on Washington Avenue. He struck one of the officers with his vehicle, throwing him several feet into the air. The officer injured his knee as he landed on the street, and he was later transported to a local hospital, where he was treated for additional injuries to his neck, back, wrist, and elbow.
After striking the officer, Taielkrim drove directly toward the other officers at the scene at a high rate of speed. A detective in the path of the vehicle fired one shot from his service weapon, while a second officer fired three shots from his service weapon. Three of the four bullets struck the vehicle, but none struck Taielkrim, who escaped from the scene.
Taielkrim was arrested later that night after being found sleeping in his vehicle in an auto repair lot in Orange, New Jersey. A loaded handgun was recovered from his vehicle.
When Taielkrim’s vehicle was examined for ballistics by investigators, they found the three points where the vehicle was struck by gunfire. The spent shell casings found at the scene were ballistically compared to the officers’ guns, and testing confirmed that two of the officers fired their weapons during the incident, thus corroborating their account.
All six officers involved in the incident provided a similar account of what had occurred, as did an employee of the pizzeria. A canvass of the area by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Shooting Response Team did not locate any surveillance video of the event. Given that the officers were all off-duty at the time after working a private security job, no officer had a body-worn camera on his or her person.
On February 14, 2017, Taielkrim pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree aggravated assault upon a police officer and one count of second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon. On August 8, 2017, he was sentenced to a seven-year New Jersey State Prison term with an 85-percent period of parole ineligibility on the aggravated assault charge, to run concurrent to a seven-year New Jersey State Prison term with a 42-month period of parole ineligibility on the weapon charge.
Based upon a review of all of the credible evidence and circumstances, it was determined that the two officers who fired their service weapons had an objectively reasonable belief of the immediate necessity to use deadly force in order to protect themselves from serious bodily injury or death, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4 and the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General’s Use of Force Policy. Since the officers’ actions were legally justifiable and there were no material facts of this case in dispute, this Office did not find it necessary to present the matter to a Grand Jury for review. The Attorney General’s Office performed its own independent review of the facts and reached the same conclusion.
The Prosecutor’s Office complied with all portions of Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive 2006-5 regarding the investigation and prosecution of police use of deadly force.