Black Lives Matter coming to NJ to consider protesting fatal cop shooting
NEW BRUNSWICK — It's a been a week since Franklin police shot and killed 27-year-old father Diahlo Grant, a black man. There yet hasn't been any protest or demonstration against police.
Some community leaders here would like to keep it that way.
But that may hinge on whether local authorities can keep the lid on investigation leaks to the media — and what some see as a smear campaign against Grant, a prominent local black Baptist minister warned Friday.
Activists tied to the national Black Lives Matter civil-rights movement are considering whether to organize demonstrations in response to the April 9 shooting and will meet next week with DeForest “Buster” Soaries Jr., of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in the Somerset section of Franklin, who has become the black community's liaison to authorities in this case.
"The more unofficial leaks come from law enforcement, the more likely there will be a protest," Soaries said in a news conference, adding that he had spoken with Franklin Police Chief Larry Roberts and the prosecutor's office earlier in the day regarding this matter.
"When cases like these emerge, the default assumption of the community is that any negative information that comes out from law enforcement is really designed to taint the image and reputation of the deceased."
"The kind of restraint that exists today in Franklin in response to this kind of incident, as opposed to other parts of the country, is largely due to the credibility of people doing the investigation. And the more information is leaked to besmirch the reputation of Mr. Grant — even if it's true — the more that the community and organizations will feel the need to respond," he added. "Including me."
On Thursday, New Jersey 101.5 reported that Grant had been a suspect in a Feb. 15 shooting elsewhere in the Somerset neighborhood where police encountered him last week.
The kind of restraint that exists today in Franklin in response to this kind of incident, as opposed to other parts of the country, is largely due to the credibility of people doing the investigation.
Authorities have not publicly disclosed that he was a suspect, or why police had approached him that evening, saying only that he had two warrants for nonpayment of child support and a drug conviction probation violation.
New Jersey 101.5 also disclosed Grant's criminal record, which dates back to at least 2008, and which is a matter of public record.
Authorities have not revealed the identities of the two officers, who have been put on paid leave. Authorities in New Jersey do not publicly identify officers involved in shootings unless they are charged with a crime, but their names and background usually are uncovered by the media.
Authorities also have not revealed how many bullets were fired, how many times Grant was struck — or even who fired first. Investigators say they recovered the gun that Grant fired as well as ballistics evidence from the scene.
The Prosecutor's Office said the officers encountered Grant in the vicinity of Somerset and Home streets in Somerset. The officers then followed him along Somerset Street into New Brunswick, where the "exchange of gunfire" occurred about 1:31 a.m. An officer performed CPR on the scene, and Grant was pronounced dead at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at 3:17 a.m.
Grant’s family has asked that people hold off on any demonstrations and protests, Soaries said. Soaries said Friday that there has not been a need to protest because there’s been sufficient attention paid to this case and the investigation appears to be moving along.
Soaries said his church also would help any witnesses or people with information to come forward.
Grant’s funeral is set for 11 a.m., April 25, at Soaries’ church. A GuFundMe page set up to help Grant's family had collected $3,572 by Friday evening.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.