In accordance with the Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive Amending Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive No. 2006-5, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office is releasing the following public statement regarding the use of deadly force by police in Clark, New Jersey.
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office has determined that the use of deadly force was legally justified in an August 8, 2014 incident that involved a Clark Police Officer and a suspect who, in an effort to elude apprehension, drove his vehicle at a Clark Police Officer in a strip mall parking lot. An independent investigation revealed that the Clark Police Officer repeatedly issued verbal commands to Kasaine Pertet, 33, to stop his Ford Taurus. Pertet ignored these commands and drove directly toward the Officer. The Officer, due to vehicle traffic and an adjacent dirt embankment, had no room to retreat. The Officer fired one shot at the Taurus, striking the front passenger side door. Pertet, who was unharmed, fled the area and later was apprehended.
The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice reviewed the Union County Prosecutor’s Office investigation and agreed that the use of deadly force was legally justified.
The investigation conducted by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office revealed that, on August 8, 2014 at 5 p.m., Clark Police Officer 1 received a call from the loss prevention department at the Target located in a strip mall at 45 Central Avenue in Clark. A Target employee reported to police that Kasaine Pertet of New Windsor, New York was suspected of utilizing a fraudulent credit card. Officer 1 proceeded to the location in an unmarked police vehicle.
Meanwhile, Clark Police Officer 2 arrived at the store in a marked police vehicle just after Pertet entered his car. Officer 2 unsuccessfully attempted to block Pertet’s escape, but Pertet was able to drive away.
When Officer 1 entered the Target parking lot with his emergency lights activated, Pertet was driving the wrong way through the entrance lane into oncoming traffic. Pertet’s Taurus collided head-on with Officer 1’s police vehicle. Officer 1 quickly realized the driver fit the description of the suspect.
Officer 1, who was uninjured following the collision, exited his vehicle in full police uniform, drew his service weapon, and verbally commanded Pertet to put the Taurus in park. Pertet ignored the officer’s command, put the Taurus in reverse, and struck a vehicle waiting to exit the parking lot. Officer 1, believing that the incident had concluded, positioned himself between his police vehicle and the front of Pertet’s Taurus. Instead, Pertet put his vehicle in gear and accelerated toward Officer 1. Officer 1 heard the vehicle’s gearbox engage, saw the car traveling toward him, and believed that Pertet was going to hit him with his car. Officer 1, unable to safely retreat, fired a single shot from his service weapon, a .45-caliber pistol, striking the front passenger side door of the Taurus as Pertet unexpectedly turned left, driving over a curb and down a dirt embankment.
Pertet subsequently eluded the officers, driving through several towns before crashing his car, which caught fire, and being arrested by Elizabeth Police officers.
Surveillance video from a camera on the roof of the Target confirmed the timeline of events and the police action described. In addition, ballistics testing by the Union County Police Department confirmed that a single shot was discharged from Officer 1’s weapon. A single bullet fragment was recovered from the interior of the charred Taurus and was consistent with being fired from Officer 1’s weapon.
Based upon the results of the investigation, Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park determined, and the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice agreed, that the use of deadly force by Officer 1 was legally justified, and that the case need not be presented to a grand jury because there were no material facts in dispute.
During the course of this investigation, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office complied with all portions of the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive Regarding Uniform Statewide Procedures and Best Practices for Conducting Police Use-of-Force Investigations.