Lawyer of now-paralyzed man: He thought it was a mugging — It was Trenton, NJ cops
As the investigation continues into the shooting of an unarmed Black man inside a vehicle last month in Trenton, his lawyer said his client is an innocent victim of police violence. But much about the incident remains unknown because authorities have so far not shared any evidence about what happened.
Jajuan Henderson, of Burlington, was shot four times just after midnight Feb. 12 outside of his girlfriend's residence. He is now partially paralyzed and remains hospitalized.
Attorney David Bahuriak, of the Bahuriak Law Group in Philadelphia, said during a news conference at NAACP headquarters in Trenton that his client was retrieving some iced tea from his parked car when another unmarked vehicle suddenly pulled up next to him, and four men wearing masks and dark civilian clothing jumped out, surrounded the car and demanded Henderson open the car.
Seconds later, the men, who turned out to be police officers, fired four shots into the car.
Why was he shot?
“How do you wind up shooting an unarmed Black man in the neck, in the back, paralyzing him, nearly killing him, leaving his family to wonder whether he’s dead or alive,” he said.
The injured man’s mother, Gia Henderson, said when she found out her son had been shot multiple times and was paralyzed “my heart almost broke and I was devastated. I thought Jajuan was going to die absolutely for no reason at all.”
A call for justice
She said the officers involved in the shooting have to be held responsible.
“There is no justice as long as those officers get to continue to live their lives when my son lies paralyzed, and my family just needs change, transparency and accountability,” she said.
According to court records, Henderson had done time in 2013 on drug and resisting arrest charges and again in 2016 after pleading guilty to child endangerment in a sex assault indictment involving a victim under 16.
But Bahuriak said his client in this instance was an innocent victim who did nothing wrong and was not wanted by police.
Authorities allege the incident took place after a traffic stop. Henderson has been charged with obstruction of justice and resisting arrest, but four counts of aggravated assault have now been dropped.
“This was an unarmed man sitting in a parked car when he was approached by law enforcement officers. We don’t have any reason to believe they even knew who Mr. Henderson was. This should have been a really routine interaction which ended up in a shooting," he said.
“We need to get back to the mission of protecting and serving and away from this mission of intimidating and terrorizing the community. This community has had enough and they want answers.”
Was it the Jump Out Boys?
Civil rights attorney Gregg Zeff said he believes the officers involved in the incident were members of the Jump Out Boys.
He said the Jump Out Boys are a group of officers that throughout New Jersey “ride around in unmarked vehicles, some of them include state troopers on assignment, some of them include FBI agents on assignment, looking for crime in high crime areas. They are always in plain clothes, they are always in unmarked cars with tinted windows.”
“When the Jump Out Boys are seen, everybody runs in the opposite direction. They have been known throughout this state to be involved in more violent incidents than regular police officers on the street.”
He said the civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of Henderson is for an unspecified amount, but in these types of cases “typically we’re talking about a lot of money.”
Bahuriak said dangerous and unjustified behavior by police in minority neighborhoods continues to take place.
“You have grandmothers teaching their kids to be afraid, you have those kids teaching their kids to be afraid, afraid of the police who are meant to be serving them. This paradigm needs to change.”
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the incident after a conflict of interest was identified within the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.
Union County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Sheets declined to comment on the incident or the ongoing investigation.