The Ocean County prosecutor has determined that the Aug. 23, 2015 fatal shooting of a Brick man by township police officers was justified and did not have to be presented to a grand jury.
Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato issued a statement Thursday morning detailing the facts of the incident, which occurred at about 10:50 p.m. in the Cherrywood Farm townhouse development off Lanes Mill Road. Three officers responded to a 911 call placed by Julian Hoffman, 21, who was later shot and killed. According to the report from the prosecutor’s office, Hoffman called to report a “disturbance.” When asked by the dispatcher to describe the nature of the disturbance, Hoffman responded that he was the disturbance. He told the dispatcher, “I’m raising hell.”
The responding officers were not specifically named in the report from the prosecutor’s office, and were only referred to by number. Previously, the prosecutor had identified Officer Jay Nye, 31, a member of the department since 2011, and Ryan Osborn, 25, a member of the department since 2013, as being involved in the shooting.
According to interviews conducted with the officers, the prosecutor determined that two officers were dispatched to the residence and arrived there within minutes. As the officers approached the door to the residence, they heard someone scream and several loud bangs. One officer approached the front door and rang the doorbell. The other officer was standing to the side of the door from a position that did not afford a view of the doorway. Hoffman answered the door with what appeared to be a handgun in his hand.
Hoffman said, “What’s up? Do something,” the report said.
The officer who could see Hoffman yelled that Hoffman had a gun, at which point both officers quickly ran from the doorway area to take cover. They positioned themselves behind vehicles that were parked nearby, at which point Hoffman exited his residence with the weapon in his hand, the report said.
He walked away from his residence and advanced toward the officers, according to the report. The officers were yelling commands for Hoffman to drop the weapon and not to advance on them, but Hoffman ignored the commands. A third Brick police officer arrived and assumed a position near the other two officers behind a vehicle.
Hoffman then looked at the officers and said, “Just do it.”
Despite “numerous and repeated” commands to Hoffman to drop his weapon, Hoffman began to raise the weapon in the direction of one of the Brick officers, according to the report. Fearing that Hoffman was about to shoot one of the officers, two of the officers discharged their duty weapons, fatally injuring Hoffman. A total of eight rounds were discharged by two of the officers – each shot four rounds. Three bullets struck Hoffman. The third officer did not fire.
The weapon recovered from Hoffman was an imitation firearm, a photograph of which is attached to this story.
An autopsy determined that Hoffman died as a result of a bullet wound to the chest. Toxicology results showed that Hoffman’s blood alcohol level was .208 and there was evidence that he had ingested cocaine, according to the report.
The investigation into the incident revealed that on the evening of Aug. 23, Hoffman and his girlfriend had an argument while they were attending a party. The argument continued as they drove home from the party. Once they arrived home, Hoffman told his girlfriend that he was going to “raise hell” and was going to “call the cops,” according to the report. He then retrieved what she described as a black BB gun from within the residence.
The girlfriend told investigators that Hoffman pleaded with her to let him end his life. She apparently heard Hoffman call the police to “report a disturbance”. Hoffman then pushed his girlfriend into his bedroom and barricaded the door so that she could not leave the room. The girlfriend was in the bedroom during the encounter between Hoffman and the police. She did not see what transpired between Hoffman and the officers.
Despite what was described as “exhaustive efforts” by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office to preserve and analyze home security video evidence of the events which transpired between Hoffman and the officers which resulted in Hoffman’s death from the homeowner’s surveillance system, the investigation determined that no video evidence could be recovered because the homeowner’s security system settings were programmed to overwrite video on a predetermined schedule to save storage space.
Ultimately, the prosecutor’s office determined that the two officers used an “acceptable level of force in unholstering, pointing and firing their weapons at Hoffman.” The facts and circumstances “reasonably led” the officers to believe that their actions in discharging their firearms were “immediately necessary to protect their own lives as well as the lives of the other officers present.”