Library shooting to grand jury

HACKENSACK –

A little more than two months after a township man was fatally shot in the Lyndhurst Public Library by township police, a grand jury is being asked to review the incident.

In response to an inquiry made earlier this month by The Observer about the status of the investigation into the death, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office issued a release about that matter and another incident in Hackensack.

The release said: “As of today (Aug. 11), we have substantially completed our review and investigation into the [two] police involved shootings ….”

The release said the BCPO “will be presenting to a grand jury” the case involving Kevin Allen, “who was shot by two Lyndhurst police officers on May 29, 2015, in the Lyndhurst public library.”

Identities of the two officers have not been disclosed by the BCPO on the grounds that grand jury matters are confidential, the release said, “… and no information can be released … while such matters remain pending before the grand jury. For this reason, no details of either incident or any part of the investigation … will be released to the public ….”

The other case that the prosecutor is bringing to a grand jury involves Elvin Diaz, who was fatally shot on May 21, 2015, at 10 Temple Ave., Hackensack, “when two police officers of the Hackensack Police Department discharged their weapons” at that location, the release said.

The release goes on to say that, “The decision to present these matters to the grand jury is made in accordance with state law and court rule, in accordance with the New Jersey Attorney General Directive 2006-5, as modified on July 28, 2015.”

Under that amended directive – which provides guidelines to law enforcement agencies “for conducting police-use-of-force investigations” – a county prosecutor “… shall present a matter to a grand jury for its independent review if: 1) … the use of force resulted in death or serious bodily injury or 2) the interests of justice would be served by having the matter reviewed by a grand jury.”

The amended directive also calls for a “separate” grand jury to examine whether any “underlying criminal activity” that may have been committed by a victim of police force justified that use of force by police.

Whether the BCPO will empaneling a separate grand jury to evaluate the behavior of the Lyndhurst victim leading up to the shooting could not be determined at press time.

Unofficial police reports on the May incident at the Lyndhurst Public Library indicated that Allen, 36, was approached outside the library by two officers who reportedly had knowledge that Allen was wanted by a law enforcement agency outside the township, that the three entered the library and went to the top floor where Allen reportedly became violent and tried to flee. At that point, according to police reports, the officers used pepper spray and a baton in an effort to subdue Allen, who allegedly produced a utility knife and came at the officers who fired at him. Allen was taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.

In an unrelated police use of force incident, an Essex County grand jury voted in October 2014 not to bring charges against three Belleville police officers who fatally shot township resident Dante Cespedes on July 9, 2013, in his apartment. According to police, four officers were sent to the apartment to serve a restraining order on Cespedes on the complaint of his wife Judy Breton. When Cespedes allegedly lunged at them with two knives, three officers opened fire, shooting 24 rounds in the process and killing Cespedes. A wrongful death suit filed by Breton’s attorney Marc Bengualid is proceeding.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.