TRENTON – A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Jacob Servais, 19, of Millville, N.J., who was fatally shot by a county detective last year in Vineland, N.J. According to police and civilian witnesses, Servais drove his car at the county detective who was immediately in front of the car, causing the detective to fire his service handgun at him.
Under the Attorney General’s Independent Prosecutor Directive, the use of deadly force by the county detective was investigated by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team, made up of investigators from the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and the New Jersey State Police Homicide Unit. The investigation included interviews of civilian witnesses and the law enforcement officers directly involved; collection of forensic evidence, including evidence from the scene and ballistics evidence; and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the team’s investigation, the state grand jury concluded its deliberations today and voted “no bill,” meaning they found the actions of the detective who shot Servais were justified and no charges should be filed against him.
The shooting occurred on Oct. 18, 2018, around 3:30 p.m., when Servais and a woman he was dating (hereafter “the woman”) arrived at the “Just 4 Wheels” car rental office on South Delsea Drive in Vineland to return a rented Toyota Corolla. Servais and the woman were suspects in a home invasion and attempted murder that occurred the previous day on Old Mill Road in the North Cape May section of Lower Township, in which a man was severely beaten with a rifle and robbed. Servais also was wanted on a warrant for failing to appear in court on a pending vehicular homicide charge against him.
Cape May County detectives determined that the car used in the home invasion was a rental car that was due back at the rental agency on Oct. 18, and they set up surveillance across the street from Just 4 Wheels. The woman arrived at the rental agency, along with Servais, who drove there in a gray Nissan Altima. They both parked their respective cars in the lot. The detectives drove into the parking lot, and broke out into two teams – one to detain the woman, the other to detain Servais.
The detectives positioned their vehicles to prevent each suspect vehicle from escaping. The woman was approached and taken into custody without incident. The county detective who shot Servais, Detective John Caccia, activated the emergency lights on the Chevy Tahoe he was driving and parked it in front of the Nissan Altima occupied by Servais to block him in. Servais had backed into a parking space and there were parking blocks behind his car. Another county detective parked a Jeep behind the Tahoe.
Detective Caccia and a second detective in the Tahoe exited the SUV with weapons drawn and shouted commands for Servais to put his hands up and exit the car. Each detective was wearing a ballistic vest with police identifiers. Detective Caccia was armed with his 9mm Glock 19 service pistol, and the detective with him had a rifle. Despite repeated commands by the police to exit the car and to cease operating the car, and despite being blocked in, Servais began operating the car in an aggressive manner. According to the officers who observed the incident, Servais drove forward and rammed the Tahoe, narrowly missing Detective Caccia.
Servais then backed up into a grassy area, where his car had trouble moving due to a wooden parking block it had run over. Servais tried to get the car to move forward, revving his engine in order to drive ahead. The detectives were in front of the car with little space behind them because of the position of their police vehicles. When the car gained traction and began to move forward directly toward Detective Caccia, he fired several shots through the windshield, striking Servais multiple times in the torso. Detective Caccia stated that he fired because he believed that Servais was going to hit him with the car.
Servais then shifted into reverse, accelerated hard, and crossed over the grassy area into the adjacent parking lot, moving the wooden parking blocks from their anchors. He came to a stop in the adjacent parking lot and slumped over. Servais was treated at the scene until an ambulance arrived to take him to Inspira Medical Center in Vineland, where he died that night. The scene was closed off, and the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team was contacted and arrived to perform their investigation.
After considering the facts, evidence and testimony from the investigation by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team, the state grand jury found the actions of Detective Caccia were justified. 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.
A law enacted in January 2019 requires that the Attorney General’s Office conduct investigations of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody. This deadly force investigation preceded enactment of that law. However, it was conducted by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team in accordance with the Independent Prosecutor Directive, issued in 2006 and strengthened in 2015, which establishes strict procedures for conducting such investigations. The directive provides that unless the undisputed facts indicate the use of force was justified under the law, the circumstances of the incident must be presented to a grand jury, composed of 23 civilians, for its independent review.
The Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website at the following link: www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/directives/2006-5_SRT_OIS.pdf.
Further information about how officer-involved shootings are investigated in New Jersey under the directive is found at this link:
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