The New Jersey Police Department involved in the fatal shooting of a man after what they call a high speed police chase from a violent criminal has resulted in police finally releasing dashboard footage of the event.
The battle to keep the video sealed resulted in the police department fighting its disclosure in the New Jersey Supreme Court, which resulted in authorities eventually releasing dashboard video showing the aftermath of a 2014 fatal police shooting of a Newark man driving a stolen SUV.
In the dashboard footage you cannot see the fatal shots that killed Kashad Ashford, but it does shine light on the frenzied moments following the shooting, as smoke can be seen raging from the crashed vehicle which attempted to run over officers.
The police officers involved in the chase said that they feared Ashford, who was the driver of the vehicle, was trying to ram them with the SUV after it crashed.
In 2015 a grand jury found in that the use of force by police was justified, but local and state officials refused to release records or video related to the case, sparking the long Supreme Court battle.
Bergen County and the State Police in several occasions denied public records requests from the news organization North Jersey Media Group, which caused a Coalition of news companies to successfully argue before the state's highest court, which in turn ruled the release of videos depicting fatal encounters with police was in the public interest.
According to law enforcement, both Ashford and another man, 31-year-old Jemmaine Bynes, of East Orange, stole the black Nissan Armada out of a North Arlington driveway on September 16th, 2014.
The duo then drove north at insanely high speeds, running multiple red lights and even "going airborne over some hills," according to the state Attorney General's Office, which investigated the shooting
Around 2:30 AM., the SUV crashed into a concrete barrier near a Route 3 overpass, and the police officers who were in pursuit of the criminals surrounded the vehicle.
According to a 2015 report from the state Shooting Response Team, the officers who arrived first saw the crashed SUV "jerking in a rear and forward motion as the driver attempted to get free of the debris and barriers."
State officials refused to identify any of the police officers involved, but the Supreme Court in its ruling found that the officers' identities were also a matter of public record.
Several family members of Ashford, 23, were shown the footage last Friday before it was released to members of the media.
Cecille Hepburn, Ashford’s grandmother, said last week that the videos raised more questions than they answered.
The Attorney General's Office says clearly that an officer "may use deadly force in New Jersey when the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm."
However the office's refusal to release documents and video from the case until ordered by the Supreme Court fueled protests against Ashford's killing at a time when police shootings of black men had began drawing national attention via organizations like black Lives Matter.