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Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Police Involved Shooting of Barry Deloatch

     Just after midnight on September 25, 2011, two New Brunswick, New Jersey police officers shot and killed 47-year-old Barry Deloatch. The officers, after a traffic stop (Deloatch had been a passenger), chased Deloatch on foot into an alley where, according to the police, "a struggle ensued and resulted in a shooting." Deloatch was not armed with a gun or a knife. The officers claimed the suspect attacked them with a stick.

     Members of New Brunswick's black community were outraged by this police shooting. Those who have questions about the incident are accusing the police department of covering-up an unjustified killing.

     On October 12, the controversy surrounding the Deloatch shooting heated up with the Middlesex County Prosecutor announced that an investigator with the police department's Internal Affairs Unit had been charged with mishandling 81 cases. According to the criminal complaint, officer Richard Rowe, between 2003 and 2007, knowingly made false police record entries to cover-up the fact he had failed to conduct thorough internal affairs investigations. Rowe was also charged with concealing and destroying police documents related to some of these cases. (Officer Rowe was not investigating the Deloatch shooting.)

     The convergence of the Deloatch shooting controversy and the developing internal affairs scandal has undermined public confidence in the New Brunswick Police Department. Time will tell if the Deloatch shooting was justified, and if officer Rowe was covering-up bad police behavior or was simply a lazy and incompetent investigator. Until police involved shootings are at the very least investigated by outside law enforcement agencies, the public will not have much confidence in the outcome of these cases. 

UPDATE

     In October, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office asked the New Jersey State Police to investigate the Deloatch shooting. Physical evidence from the shooting site has been sent to the state crime laboratory for analysis. The prosecutor's office will make the final determination as to whether the case will be presented to a grand jury sitting in New Brunswick.

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