A Black man in New Jersey was getting iced tea out of his car last month when police smashed the vehicle window and shot him four times, his lawyers say in a new civil lawsuit.
Jajuan R. Henderson, 29, is now paralyzed from the chest down as a result of the incident, according to the suit, which was filed against the city of Trenton, director of Trenton police Steve E. Wilson, and the four police officers involved in the shooting.
Henderson was unarmed and no officers were injured, yet Henderson himself initially faced criminal charges ― including aggravated assault ― in the incident. The assault charges have since been dropped, though he is still facing charges of resisting arrest and obstruction, NBC News reports.
Henderson was retrieving some iced tea from his parked car on the street outside a Trenton home around midnight on Feb. 12, the suit, filed by Zeff Law Firm on behalf of Henderson, states.
“In the middle of the night, Jajuan sat lawfully parked in a car with the engine turned off when an unidentified dark car approached and parked next to him, boxing him in,” the suit reads. “A group of men, fully masked and in dark plain clothes, then jumped out of this mysterious vehicle and began yelling at Jajuan.”
Documents from the Mercer County prosecutor’s office had previously characterized Henderson as being uncooperative when faced with a motor vehicle stop, NJ.com reported. But Henderson’s lawyers emphasized that because the officers were in plainclothes and wearing masks, he had no idea who they were, and viewed the situation as four masked strangers menacingly approaching him in the middle of the night.
“This group of men, appearing as any other group of dangerous criminals from a horror movie, turned out to be from the Trenton Police Department,” said his lawyers in the suit.
Mercer County said Henderson did not provide ID and was on a phone call, which his lawsuit stated was an attempt to call for help. One officer then smashed Henderson’s window and prosecutors said he tried to flee, hitting another car in the process. Police fired on him four times, hitting him in the neck and back.
“It is a miracle that Jajuan survived,” Richard Smith of the NAACP said, per CBS News. The New Jersey NAACP held a press event earlier this week to announce the lawsuit.
His lawyers are also calling for body camera footage from the incident to be released to the public.
Wilson and the city of Trenton did not immediately respond to requests for comment from HuffPost, though the city of Trenton has told multiple news outlets it has no comment. The four officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave.