New Jersey prosecutors have released surveillance video that shows a Newark police detective shoot a Black man dead during a New Year’s Day foot chase.
Plainclothes detective Rod Simpkins fired a single shot that struck Carl Dorsey III, a 39-year-old South Orange man, in the chest. The incident occurred just minutes into the new year as officers were responding to a report of shots fired in the area.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office is investigating the shooting and will present their findings to a grand jury to determine whether criminal charges should be filed. On Jan. 21 the AG released home security footage from cameras across the street from Simpkins and Dorsey’s encounter. The surveillance is the only video that captured the shooting, investigators confirmed in a statement.
Newark plainclothes detectives aren’t outfitted with the body cameras, and Simpkins’ unmarked vehicle wasn’t equipped with a dash camera.
The nearly two-minute recording shows two plainclothes officers pull up to the scene in a minivan. Dorsey appeared to be running. He darted into the frame as Simpkins jumped out of the vehicle’s passenger side with his gun drawn. The two ran toward each other and Simpkins reached out to grab Dorsey. They collided as they crossed paths and the collision caused both men to stumble backward. Simpkins turned toward Dorsey as he fell to the ground and fired a gunshot from his 9mm service weapon that sent Dorsey sprawling over the hood of a vehicle parked behind him.
The entire chain of events happened within three seconds of the plainclothes officer exiting his unmarked police vehicle. The video had no audio, so it remained unknown if Simpkins announced himself as a police officer.
Dorsey was rushed to University Hospital in Newark to be treated, but he died there at 1:37 a.m.
Simpkins, an 18-year veteran of the Newark Police Department, remains on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Simpkins was one of four plainclothes officers named in a 2009 lawsuit filed by a Pop Warner football coach and the parents of two players from his team, NJ.com reported. The suit claimed the officers pulled the coach over while he was driving with the two boys, ages 13 and 15, and approached the car with guns drawn in June 2008. The officers pulled the trio out of the car and told them “you have no f—–g rights…we’re cops, we do whatever the f–k we want,” the complaint alleged.
Investigators from the Attorney General’s office have met with Dorsey’s family and reviewed the security video as well as portions of the ongoing investigation.
The shooting occurred at 12:03 a.m. on Jan. 1 near the intersection of 11th Street and Woodland Avenue. Officers patrolling the area heard gunshots and responded to the juncture. They saw several people gathered in the street and “numerous muzzle flashes,” according to court records. The crowd scattered when police showed up.
It remains unclear if Dorsey was part of the crowd. His shooting sparked protests, and community activists called for Simpkins to be charged with murder.
James Stewart, president of the Newark Fraternal Order of Police Lodge, claimed the officers were responding to a “running gunfight” and described them as heroes.
“These officers heard gunfire and drove toward it, finding themselves in the middle of a running gunfight between multiple people,” the union head told NJ Advance Media the day of the shooting. “They became targets and did what they had to do to protect themselves. Their actions were nothing short of heroic, and Newark is lucky to have officers like these out there every day working to make the city a safe place.”
New Jersey enacted protocols in 2019 that require the Attorney General to conduct independent reviews for all deadly officer-involved encounters. The video recording was released last week as part of that state law, which places emphasis on “fair, impartial and transparent investigation.”
In a statement the day after the shooting, Newark Mayor Ras Baracka indicated police made at least one arrest and recovered two firearms during the incident. Local activists insisted that was from an unrelated arrest nearly a block away.
In last week’s statement, the Attorney General made it clear that Dorsey was unarmed and authorities found no weapons in his vicinity.
Baraka will now turn his attention to expanding Newark’s body camera program. In a news release Thursday, he said he plans to advise the city’s Public Safety director to look into outfitting plainclothes officers with the body-worn devices.
Baraka also requested the AG’s office to turn their findings over to the city’s consent decree unit to investigate possible use-of-force and department policy violations. The mayor will also like the city’s civilian review board to review the shooting and make recommendations.
“After reviewing the video from the Jan. 1 police shooting incident, I found it to be tragic, disturbing, yet incomplete,” Baraka said, asking for anyone with information about the case to come forth to Attorney General investigators.
Stewart characterized Baraka’s statement as disturbing and called on the Attorney General to investigate him for interfering with their independent probe, Daily Mail reported.
“He is not a law enforcement officer and has zero business attempting to influence the direction it goes,” Stewart said. “The cops in Newark now know for a fact that the administration does not support them, and that’s a sad day for the people of this city.”