TRENTON, NJ—In response to a police shooting that nearly killed a 14-year-old boy, panel discussions and a rally for justice will take place at the Trenton War Memorial (1 Memorial Drive) from 8:30am until 3:45pm on September 30.
The discussions are being co-sponsored by the US Department of Justice (USDOJ) and the NJ Attorney General’s Office, and their event is titled “Building Trust: Police/Community Relationships.”
Trenton-based groups like the United Mercer Interfaith Organization (UMIO) and Urban Grace are coming together and demanding justice for Radazz Hearns, the juvenile who was shot by officers who still have not been named.
Hearns survived the seven gunshots on August 7, but has been the target of a smear campaign ever since. Despite being a juvenile, his criminal records were subsequently leaked from an anonymous law enforcement officer to The Trentonian.
“It’s pretty clear the only reason there is an active investigation of the leak of this child’s records is because the community came together to demand one, in writing, in public, and with a great degree of seriousness,” says Reverend Lukata Mjumbe, Co-Chair of UMIO.
Hashtags of the movement include #WhyTheyShootMe and #Justice4Radazz.
On August 18, the Attorney General’s Office charged Hearns with aggravated assault on a police officer, and several weapons offenses.
Slimes Jackson, mother of now 15-year old Radazz Hearns, first called for the investigation into who initially leaked the records of Radazz Hearns, according to Keith Brown of NJ.com.
Activists are also seeking an implementation of a Civilian Review Board to investigate police miscconduct in Trenton, and for the shooting investigation to be taken over by by federal investigators including U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.
Presently, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, led by Acting Attorney General John Jay Hoffman, and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, led by Acting Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri, are handling the matter.
Hearns suffered injuries to the buttocks and leg, and is currently recovering with physical therapy.
Hearns, who was 14 at the time, was involved in what appeared to have been a brief chase with a Mercer County Sheriff and two State Troopers.
The Sheriff’s Officer was reportedly part of an initiative known as TIDE to combat violence in the city of Trenton.
It is not known whether the shooting was captured by body cameras or motor vehicle recordings. The State Police recently announced they would be outfitting all of their officers with body cameras.
A handgun that police say Hearns was holding was reportedly recovered, but not until over 12 hours after the incident occured. The gun was supposedly found under a vehicle that arrived on scene to aid with the investigation after Hearns was shot.
The state Attorney General’s Office initially said Hearns had reached for his waistband, before changing their statement to saying he had a gun pointed to the anonymous officers.
“The 14-year-old’s identity will not be released because he is a juvenile,” reads the press release from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.
“We unfortunately saw several weeks of headlines surfacing and stories that included mugshots of the child,” Reverend Mjumbe told New Brunswick Today, before authorities took action to investigate the leak of Hearns’ criminal records.
“We are happy to see that there has been some response from the Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey Attorney General.”
The Trentonian recently published a story indicating that one of their reporters, Isaac Avilucea, is under investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office in connection with the leak.
Mjumbe says he believes, “the Press, under the First Amendment, has freedom to publish information of this nature as long as they did not illegally obtain it through stealing or hacking.”
“There is no questions if a law enforcement officer provided the records to him… They broke the law and they should be subject to prosecution.”
Still, community advocates are dismayed by the continuing publication of Hearns’ criminal record, and his mugshot.
“What I’ve said to Mr. Avilucea is that I understand he may have a right to write and publish certain information, that doesn’t make it right.”
Molly O'Brien started writing for New Brunswick Today as a freelance reporter in February 2013.
Molly writes stories on government, arts, free events, bilingual events, education and more.
Molly graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in French Linguistics and Linguistics, where she also studied Writing and Journalism. Molly also graduated Rutgers Law School.
She is open to any suggestions for stories or tips. You may contact her via text at 732-743-8993.