ASBURY PARK, N.J. (AP) — Family and friends of Hasani Best rallied Wednesday and called on New Jersey authorities to bring criminal charges against one or more police officers involved in his fatal shooting last month.
Best, 39, was killed in Asbury Park after police responded to a domestic dispute. He was shot after he refused to relinquish a knife he was holding. Bodycam video was released Tuesday.
“He didn’t deserve it,” said Carol Sanders, Best’s mother as she blinked back tears and dabbed at her eyes during a news conference across the street from police headquarters.
“He was talking to them and explaining his hurt, his feelings,” she said. “They didn’t have to take his life. They shot him in his chest.”
Best, who was known to officers from previous encounters, had barricaded himself in a room in his apartment after police responded to a 911 call about a domestic dispute. Several officers spent about 45 minutes trying to convince him to come out and drop the knife.
Finally, Best emerged partway and stood in the doorway, looked at one of the officers and said, “I’m going to stab him,” though Best was standing still at the time. Police Sgt. Sean DeShader immediately fired from about 6 feet away, knocking Best back into the room. He died at a hospital about 20 minutes later.
Randy Thompson, CEO of the advocacy group Help Not Handcuffs, blamed “impatient, trigger-happy cops” for killing a disturbed man.
“Today we stand here to condemn the senseless and avoidable killing of another Black man,” he said. “Who put an egg timer on this man’s life, that after 60 minutes he would be killed?”
DeShader currently is on administrative duty, a police department spokesman said in an email Wednesday. The department declined comment on the contents of the video.
The state attorney general’s office is investigating the shooting and will present the video and other evidence to a grand jury when the probe is concluded, though grand juries haven’t been hearing cases during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a separate case in Asbury Park in 2019, police officers shot and killed a 27-year-old man who they said was acting erratically and was wielding a pair of scissors. That investigation also is ongoing.
Under guidelines issued by the attorney general’s office, an officer is justified in using deadly force if he or she “reasonably believes such action is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.”
Officers shouldn’t use deadly force if they reasonably believe an alternative course of action will “avert or eliminate an imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm,” according to the guidelines.