State Grand Jury Declines to Criminally Charge Officers Involved in
Fatal Police Encounter in Old Bridge on July 15, 2019
TRENTON – A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Frank Zampini, 49, of Old Bridge, New Jersey, who died during the course of an encounter with officers of the Old Bridge Police Department on July 15, 2019.
The fatal police encounter was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to 16 to 23 New Jersey residents called to serve on the grand jury in accordance with Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive” issued in 2019. In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (“SOPs”) to ensure that these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, and with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the Independent Prosecutor Directive. The investigation of this encounter included interviews of law enforcement and civilian witnesses, review of audio from a 911 call and a motor vehicle recording, and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury concluded its deliberations yesterday, Sept. 14, and voted “no bill,” meaning a majority of grand jurors found the actions of the officers who encountered Mr. Zampini were justified and no charges should be filed against them.
According to the investigation, at approximately 12:51 a.m. on July 15, 2019, officers of the Old Bridge Police Department were dispatched to the Stratford Apartments on Arcade Lane in Old Bridge in response to a 911 call reporting that an individual was coming down after having used Ecstasy and was causing a physically violent disturbance inside a neighbor’s apartment. When officers arrived in the apartment, they encountered the apartment’s resident attempting to control Mr. Zampini, who was flailing his arms around and fighting with the neighbor, who was attempting to restrain him.
Mr. Zampini was similarly combative with the officers and attempted to bite them. As a result, the officers placed him in handcuffs for his own protection, as well as their own. After being placed in handcuffs, Mr. Zampini momentarily calmed down. A few seconds later, however, Mr. Zampini began vomiting and immediately thereafter became unresponsive. Officers immediately took him out of the handcuffs, began CPR, and called for emergency medical technicians, who continued CPR upon their arrival. Mr. Zampini was pronounced dead inside the apartment at 1:46 a.m. An autopsy report prepared by the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner, an independent office in but not of the Department of Health, concluded that Mr. Zampini’s cause of death was “Excited Delirium” induced by the combined effects of certain specified drugs.
A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody. It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved.
A conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation. Prior to presentation to the grand jury, the investigation was reviewed by OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations in the SOPs.
At the conclusion of these investigations, pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any principal should be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for administrative review in accordance with the AG’s Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures. OPIA monitors any resulting review and takes such actions as are necessary to ensure that the review is completed in a timely fashion, and that appropriate actions are taken based on the results of the review.
The Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website at this link:
Further information about how fatal police encounters are investigated in New Jersey under the directive is found at this link: http://www.nj.gov/oag/independent-prosecutor/
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