NEW BRUNSWICK — The 27-year-old man who was shot and killed by Franklin police in this city on Saturday was being followed because cops suspected his involvement in a shooting two months earlier in Franklin.

Diahlo Grant was shot by two uniformed township officers at about 1:31 a.m. after cops said he opened fire at them. He was pronounced dead a couple of hours later at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

Authorities have released few details about the April 9 shooting, declining to explain why the two cops encountered Grant in the first place and why they followed him on foot across the county line into New Brunswick. They also have not identified the police officers, something authorities rarely do in cases of police shootings.

But new information is shedding more light on an incident that comes amid a national conversation about police accountability and community relations.

Police documents obtained by New Jersey 101.5 this week reveal for the first time that Grant, who had an extensive nonviolent criminal and arrest record, was a suspect in a Feb. 15 shooting on Ambrose Street in Franklin, the same neighborhood where cops found Grant last week.

The new information is significant because friends and relatives of Grant have doubted police reports that Grant fired at cops, or that he was even armed. The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office on Saturday did not mention the February shooting, saying only that Grant was wanted on warrants for non-payment of child support and a probation violation on a drug conviction.

Police have made no arrest in that Ambrose Street shooting, which hospitalized a 26-year-old man with several gunshot wounds to his hands and torso. Although Franklin police declined to release detailed information about Grant’s involvement in that incident, Grant’s status as a suspect was confirmed by multiple law enforcement officials who declined to be named because they are not authorized to discuss the probe with the press.

The prosecutor’s office last week said authorities recovered Grant’s gun from the scene. Sources told New Jersey 101.5 that the investigation will show that a bullet recovered from the area will match the gun they say Grant fired.

Distrust and misinformation

Grant’s shooting so far has not sparked the same level of outcry and protests seen in other cases where black men have been shot by police. But there is some distrust in Franklin's Somerset section, with a population that is more than a quarter black.

To try to allay those concerns, Franklin Police Chief Larry Roberts and Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey last week met with DeForest “Buster” Soaries Jr., a former state secretary of state and the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens. The black minister is a prominent figure in the township.

“All across America, concerned leaders and citizens have been questioning the interactions between law enforcement officials and black citizens that too often result in the deaths of the black citizens,” Soaries said in a statement to New Jersey 101.5.

“We look forward to hearing all of the facts of this case and pray for the families of the victim and the officers involved. We will also monitor the investigation to ensure that justice prevails for all involved and affected parties.”

As criticism of the police’s handling of the incident has swirled, so has misinformation.

NJ Black Lives Matter on Saturday repeated unconfirmed reports on its Facebook page that Grant's body had been left on the street until 10 a.m. The group later corrected that statement after authorities revealed that Grant had been pronounced dead at the hospital at 3:17 a.m.

A local newspaper, meanwhile, cited unconfirmed alerts from a police monitoring service to suggest that Franklin police may have encountered Grant last week after responding to reports of a shooting Friday night on Somerset and Ambrose streets. But a Franklin police spokesman on Tuesday told New Jersey 101.5 that there is no record of any reported shooting before officers found Grant at Somerset and Home streets.

Many arrests

Grant was long known to police in Franklin, where he had an adult arrest record dating back to 2008, when he was 19.

He was arrested April 2, 2008, and later was indicted by a Somerset County grand jury on charges that included possessing more than 50 grams of marijuana on or near school property and carrying a knife. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 180 days in county jail and three years of probation. The probation was revoked by a Superior Court judge in 2011 and he was ordered to spend a year in county jail.

Police arrested him March 19, 2010, at his house on Baier Avenue for two warrants out of North Brunswick and Franklin municipal courts. He was arrested again in December of that year outside a grocery store on Hamilton Street on charges of possessing under 50 grams of marijuana.

He was arrested July 14, 2013, on Phillips Court along with two other men who police said had drugs "in plain view." Police noted he also had a warrant for his arrest from Hillsborough Municipal Court. That arrest lead him to cop a plea to a third-degree cocaine possession charge, which got him three years of probation and 50 hours of community service. This year in February, a Superior Court judge extended that probation to five years, according to court records, which did not provide further details.

Investigating police shootings

Police in Middlesex and Somerset counties rarely fire their weapons at suspects, although several men have been slain by Middlesex officers in recent years. All those officers were cleared of wrongdoing by prosecutors or grand juries.

The last time police fatally shot a suspect in New Brunswick was in 2011, when a city officer fired on Barry Deloatch, a 47-year-old black man. The death sparked daily demonstrations and accusations of police brutality. The police department’s internal affairs office in 2012 recommended that the officer, Brad Berdel, be disciplined for failing to carry pepper spray. A grand jury had previously cleared Berdel and his partner, who said Deloatch ran from them and attacked them with a two-feet piece of wood after he was tackled.

In December, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office cleared an Old Bridge police officer who shot and killed a knife-wielding suicidal 75-year-old white man who attacked his family and officers in January 2015.

The office in 2014 also cleared two Perth Amboy police officers who shot and killed a schizophrenic Hispanic man on the street in December 2013. Authorities later released grainy surveillance video purportedly showing the man lunging at the officers with a knife in hand.

Last year, a state grand jury cleared a Middlesex County SWAT officer who shot and killed a schizophrenic white man who had barricaded himself inside his South Brunswick home in 2013. Police said the man attacked an officer with a wrench and reached for his gun.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.