State Grand Jury Declines to Criminally Charge Officers Involved in Fatal Shooting in Fort Lee, N.J., on February 4, 2023






State Grand Jury Declines to Criminally Charge Officers

Involved in Fatal Shooting in Fort Lee, N.J., on February 4, 2023



TRENTON — A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations on June 17, 2024 regarding the death of Mohamed Bounaouar, 42, of Las Vegas, Nevada, who was fatally shot in Fort Lee, New Jersey, after an encounter with members of the Fort Lee Police Department on February 4, 2023.


Mr. Bounaouar’s death was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to New Jersey residents serving on the grand jury in accordance with the Independent Prosecutor Directive of 2019. In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the directive.


The investigation included recordings from 911 calls, footage from various body-worn cameras and a conducted energy device (CED, commonly referred to as a taser), interviews with civilians and law enforcement personnel, photographs, ballistic testing results, and autopsy results from a medical examiner.


According to the investigation, members of the Fort Lee Police Department responded to John Street in Fort Lee following a 911 call from a family member reporting that Mr. Bounaouar was inside their home armed with a knife, acting in an aggressive manner, and cutting his own belongings. Upon their arrival at the location, the family member informed law enforcement that, along with Mr. Bounaouar, four other people were inside the dwelling.


Officers entered the townhouse and attempted to speak to Mr. Bounaouar from the bottom of a staircase. Later, with the assistance of law enforcement, all except one of the family members inside the residence were able to leave. The family informed officers that there was a family member on the third floor who was unable to exit, as Mr. Bounaouar was occupying the second floor.


Throughout the morning, additional resources from the Fort Lee Police Department responded including crisis negotiators, the Emergency Services Unit (ESU), along with the Fort Lee Fire Department. Police continued attempting to negotiate with Mr. Bounaouar as items were being thrown down the stairs in the vicinity of officers and various items were being broken in the townhouse by Mr. Bounaouar.


In an effort to get the remaining family member out of the third floor, additional officers were positioned on a neighboring balcony, adjacent to the balcony of the townhouse that Mr. Bounaouar was occupying. At approximately 10:20 a.m., the Fort Lee Fire Department and law enforcement, using a bucket truck, attempted to remove the remaining family member from the townhouse’s third-floor window. During this effort, Mr. Bounaouar exited the residence onto his second-floor rear balcony. There, with a knife in his hand, he moved in the direction of the officers who were on the neighboring balcony. Officer Emmanuel Espinal deployed a taser and Detectives John Gallo and Stephen Domenick discharged their firearms. Officer Espinal then deployed his taser a second time.


After hearing the gunfire, the officers who had been posted at the bottom of the stairs, within the residence, ascended the staircase to the second floor. They found Mr. Bounaouar wounded and lying on the floor of the balcony. They ordered him to drop the knife, but he rose to his feet and began moving towards them while still holding the knife. At that point, Officers Matthew Lyle and Gabriel Avella discharged their firearms, striking Mr. Bounaouar. Officers then removed two knives located near Mr. Bounaouar. Emergency medical personnel rendered first aid at the scene. Mr. Bounaouar was pronounced deceased at approximately 10:39 a.m. One officer sustained a non-life threatening ricochet gunshot injury to his hand.


The recordings are available here:


A 2019 law, N.J.S.A. 52:17B-107a(2), 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. The grand jury is instructed on the elements of the potential criminal offenses, including criminal homicide offenses, that could be brought and, as required by statutes, the grand jury is instructed on self-defense and other forms of legal justification.


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 Drew Skinner 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.





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