TRENTON – The Attorney General’s Office today released video and audio recordings related to the shooting on May 23, 2020 in Paterson, N.J., in which Passaic County Sheriff’s Officers fatally shot Christopher Clark, 36, of Paterson.
The Attorney General’s Office today also released the identity of the sheriff’s officers who fired at Mr. Clark. They are Sgt. Americo Escobar, Sgt. Helman Fava, and Sgt. Jose Vargas of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office.
The shooting remains under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. However, the recordings are being released pursuant to Attorney General Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive,” which governs use-of-force investigations in New Jersey and requires that such records, if requested, be released to the public once the initial phase of the investigation is substantially complete.Members of Mr. Clark’s family and a representative viewed the video recordings on Monday, June 15.
The shooting occurred at approximately 1:16 a.m. on May 23, 2020 on 16th Avenue in Paterson, between Straight Street and Summer Street. The three sheriff’s officers responded in a marked patrol vehicle at approximately 1:10 a.m. after gunshots were detected by a ShotSpotter on Park Avenue. When the sheriff’s officers arrived in the vicinity, they observed Mr. Clark on foot on Summer Street. As officers approached Mr. Clark, he ran and the officers pursued him onto 16th Avenue. During the encounter on 16th Avenue, the three sheriff’s officers fired at Mr. Clark.Mr. Clark was fatally wounded.He was pronounced dead at the scene. A loaded .45-caliber pistol was recovered near Mr. Clark.
The recordings are contained in 10 files, which have been posted online. Click here for files. To facilitate their review, the files are numbered and described briefly below.
- Recording 01: “Summer Street Surveillance.” Surveillance camera video (no audio capability). In the video, Mr. Clark is the individual walking in the middle of Summer Street toward 16th Avenue.
- Recording 02: “Car 101 MVR.” Mobile Video Recorder (no audio capability). This is MVR footage from a Passaic County Sheriff’s vehicle, occupied by Sergeants Escobar, Fava and Vargas. The sheriff’s vehicle stops near the scene where the shooting occurred, but the shooting is outside of the MVR’s view.
- Recording 03: “16th Ave Surveillance” Surveillance camera video (no audio capability). Mr. Clark is the individual running through the frame at 1:16 a.m., followed several seconds later by a sheriff’s officer. The shooting occurred immediately after, out of the camera’s view.
- Recording 04: “Car 118 MVR.” Mobile Video Recorder (video and audio). This is MVR footage from a Passaic County Sheriff’s vehicle.
- Recording 05: “Passaic County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Calls” (redactions of cell phone number of officer and duty assignment of another officer).
- Recording 06: “Passaic County Sheriff’s Office Radio Transmissions” (no redactions).
- Recording 07: “Paterson Police Department Radio Transmissions #1” (no redactions).
- Recording 08: “Paterson Police Department Radio Transmissions #2” (no redactions).
- Recording 09: “Paterson Police Department Radio Transmissions #3” (no redactions).
- Recording 10: “Paterson Police Department Radio Transmissions #4” (no redactions).
The information at the following link is being made public pursuant to the Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-3.b., which lists specific criminal investigatory information that must be disclosed:
The investigation is being conducted pursuant to a state law enacted in January 2019 (P.L.2019, c.1), which 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.
The investigation is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time. Under state law and the Independent Prosecutor Directive, when the entire investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury, typically consisting of 16 to 23 citizens, to make the ultimate decision regarding whether criminal charges will be filed. The Administrative Office of the Courts has temporarily suspended the convening of grand juries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The investigation is being conducted in compliance with procedures and requirements established in the Independent Prosecutor Directive, which is available at this link:
The Independent Prosecutor Directive, issued by Attorney General Grewal in December 2019, outlines a 10-step process for conducting independent investigations of use-of-force and death-in-custody incidents in compliance with state law. The directive establishes clear procedures governing such investigations to ensure that they are done fully, fairly, and independently of any potential bias. A summary of that 10-step process is available at this link: