NJ university fires security director over ’94 shooting of black teen
The Rowan University Board of Trustees will not reappoint its emergency management director after a petition resurfaced his shooting of a black teen when he was working as a municipal police officer back in 1994.
Peter Amico, who has served as emergency management director since 2013, will not be included on the managerial appointment list scheduled to be voted upon by the Trustees on Wednesday, according to a written statement by university President Ali Houshmand.
"As a university, we believe black lives matter. We are looking hard at our own organization, our policies, structure and culture," Houshmand wrote.
According to Houshmand's message, Amico was a Glassboro police officer who responded to a domestic call and his “split-second decision in the line of duty" led to the death of 14-year-old El Tarmaine “L.T.” Sanders.
New York Times coverage of the case said Amico told investigators that Sanders came at him with a 13-inch carving knife when he got out of his patrol car at Sanders' home, where police had been called because of two teens fighting. Amico said he shot the teen in self defense. Witnesses contradicted Amico.
A Gloucester County grand jury declined to charge the officer with a crime and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Sanders' rights had not been violated, according to Houshmand.
The Times article shortly after the shooting noted that "racial stress" divided the town following the death, with NAACP lawyer Patricia Darden quoted as saying: "Until the time a black family can call the cops into a tough situation and expect they will treat them the same as they do a white family, things aren't going to be the same again."
Houshmand said Amico was hired in 2009 as a private contractor with Rowan's Department of Public Safety and after a background check in 2010 was hired full time. He was appointed the emergency management director in 2013
"Given the circumstances of Amico’s employment prior to serving at the University and the necessarily painstaking evaluation of Rowan’s institutional commitment to racial justice and equity, Amico’s employment will be discontinued." Housmand wrote.
Rowan spokesman Joe Cardona told New Jersey 101.5 that background checks have changed over 10 years.
"Today is a little bit different in the breadth and depth of background checks," Cardona said.
Houshmand acknowledged that Amico had to make a split-second decision as a police officer.
"We also acknowledge the difficulty police officers encounter when called to face uncertain conditions, as well as the public scrutiny they endure in their work among us," the preisdent wrote.
An online petition posted on June 3 called for Amico to be "immediately terminated" and said his continued presence "says loudly that 'Black Lives Don't Matter" at Rowan University."
The Facebook page In Memory of El Tarmaine “LT” Sanders said Amico's firing was a long time coming.
"It’s just the beginning of the justice we seek but we are forever grateful for the onward, upward, and forward motion that we see towards justice," the group said in a post about Amico's departure.
"To everyone who has dropped it, thinking you didn’t stand a chance in this fight... I encourage you to pick it back up! It’s never too late for justice to be served and this is our hour of redemption! Let’s stand together! We’re prepared to fight with you."