Family demands answers after unarmed black man killed by N.J. trooper, attorney says ~ Before George Floyed, there was Maurice Gordon!
Updated Jun 07, 5:27 PM; Posted Jun 06, 5:56 PM
By Rebecca Everett | For NJ.com | Courtesy of NJ.com
Family demands answers after unarmed black man killed by N.J. trooper, attorney says. On May 23, a routine traffic stop ended with a New Jersey State Police trooper shooting a black man to death on the side of the Garden State Parkway.
Maurice Gordon, 28, of Poughkeepsie, New York, was unarmed and waiting with a white trooper for a tow truck to arrive because his car wouldn’t restart, according to the attorney for Gordon’s family.
Thousands of miles away in London, his mother and sister could not believe the news. He was a chemistry student and a driver for UberEats who stayed out of trouble, they said, so they couldn’t imagine why a trooper had shot him.
Their attorney is trying to get answers from authorities. But answers have been hard to come by, they say, and they only feel more helpless and hopeless each day.
“I’m not going to hear his voice anymore,” his mother, Racquel Barrett, said in an interview Saturday, describing the Jamaica native’s accent as he’d call her “mum.” Barrett and her daughter, who both live in England, have been staying in a hotel in Poughkeepsie in the aftermath of Gordon’s death.
“It really hurts. I don’t know if I’m ever going to get over this. And I’m really, really angry and upset with the police here,” she said. “I don’t know how the law works here, but it feels like I’m fighting through a no man’s land. I’m just sitting here in a hotel room, crying.”
The family’s attorney has been able to learn only basic details of what happened, and said the Attorney General’s Office, which investigates police shootings, only let him see a portion of the police video footage.
A spokeswoman for the office said its policy is to release videos “once the initial investigation is substantially complete, typically within 20 days,” and intends to do so in this case. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said earlier this week that investigators withhold details or video until witness interviews are complete because, “I need to be able to interview witnesses based on what they saw, not what they saw in a video and then are repeating in a witness interview.”
He has not released the trooper’s name.
The New Jersey State Police declined to comment for this story.
The killing on the parkway in Burlington County occurred two days before the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. That incident resulted in multiple officers’ arrests and sparked protesters across the U.S. and the world to take to the streets, demanding change and chanting his name along with “Black Lives Matter.”
Gordon’s family’s attorney, William O. Wagstaff III, said the anger people are expressing at protests is because of situations like these.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
“There’s so much wrong with the way police police people of color, and this is an example of that. You have a young man who had his whole life ahead of him who ended up dead, presumably, on the side of the Garden State Parkway for what should have been a routine traffic stop,” he said.
Wagstaff said he learned Gordon was stopped by the trooper in Bass River Township for a speeding violation, but when the officer asked him to pull his car to a different spot on the highway, the car wouldn’t start. The officer called for a tow truck, he said.
“Mr. Gordon did not want to remain in his vehicle so he was invited by the trooper to sit in the back of the trooper’s vehicle,” Wagstaff said. He was frisked for weapons, and none were found, the attorney said.
“Once in the back of the trooper’s vehicle he was made to sit there for more than 30 minutes without any information being provided, not being issued a ticket, and there was no indication he was under arrest,” Wagstaff said.https://5d008f972cfc4e62481840b7caaaf262.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
He said Gordon twice removed his seatbelt and put it back on as the trooper instructed. But the third time, as he apparently removed his seatbelt and tried to get out of the cruiser, the trooper got physical with him and eventually shot him multiple times, Wagstaff said. He then handcuffed the bleeding man, the attorney said.
He said the family can’t get answers as to why Gordon wanting to get out of the car was problematic, since he wasn’t ticketed or arrested. They also don’t know if he died at the scene, was given first aid or taken to a hospital.
“As a family we deserve answers for my brother,” Yanique Gordon, 27, said Saturday. “He was innocent. He didn’t do drugs. He didn’t hang out with the wrong crowd… He did not come all the way from Jamaica to die at the hands of someone else.”
Gordon was raised in Spanish Town, Jamaica and came to the U.S., where his father was living, at age 19. Growing up, he sang in the church choir, wanted to get good grades and was close with his baby sister, family members said.
“He never changed. He remained the same mischievous, annoying big brother,” Yanique Gordon, 27, said. “I have six siblings and he’s the only one who will just randomly WhatsApp me or Facebook message me and just say, ‘I love you, sis.’”
Gordon was a joyful, funny, hard-working man who loved Ariana Grande and called his mother all the time just to check in and tell her about his life. He was studying chemistry at Dutchess Community College in New York and liked his job delivering food because he got to chat with new people, his mother said.
“He had the most contagious laughter and contagious smile. If you were annoyed with him he’d just come out with something random and funny and make you laugh,” Yanique Gordon said.
Barrett lamented that she will never see her son get married or have children. And stuck in a hotel room in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, she can’t even get her son a suit in which to be cremated, or have her family gather to say goodbye at a funeral.
Yanique Gordon said that coming from the United Kingdom, where most officers are not armed with guns, she feels shocked by how an officer in the U.S. can take a life so quickly.
“This is now so close to home for me. My own brother,” she said. “I don’t know how to feel because I can’t help him anymore. I feel like I have no hope.”
Zellie Imani, part of the Black Lives Matter movement in Paterson, said the incident is an example of how something as routine as a traffic stop can turn deadly for people of color.
“Going into situations like that as a black person driving, you know that your life is in danger up until you are home,” he said. On highways, there often aren’t bystanders who could capture what’s happening on video, he added. “I think that’s one of the most scary things about driving while black, especially on a highway, because if something happens it’s literally their word, because you’re dead. You can’t tell your side of the story.”
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