House candidate Will Cunningham called for the arrest of a state trooper who fatally shot an unarmed black man on the Garden State Parkway last month.
“The cruelty and violence displayed against people of color in this country cannot stand any longer. Law enforcement must be held accountable especially in cases where force is excessively and unnecessarily employed,” he said.
In the early morning of May 23, New Jersey State Police Sgt. Randall Wetzel fatally shot Maurice Gordon, a 28-year-old resident of Poughkeepsie, New York, after the two engaged in a physical struggle.
According to the Office of the Attorney General, which is required by law to mount independent investigations of fatal use-of-force incidents, Wetzel stopped Gordon for speeding on the Parkway.
During the stop, Gordon’s vehicle became disable, and the motorist was offered a seat in the back of Wetzel’s police cruiser, where he remained for roughly 20 minutes before being offered a cloth face mask.
After he was received the mask, Gordon exited the vehicle, ignoring Wetzel’s repeated orders to “Get in the fucking car.”
Dashboard camera footage shows Gordon twice attempt to enter the driver’s seat of the police cruiser. After the first attempt, the Attorney General’s Office said, the trooper pepper sprayed Gordon.
After the second attempt, the two engaged in a physical struggle that ended after Wetzel fired six shots. The trooper said Gordon was attempting to take his gun.
It’s not clear what prompted Gordon to leave the vehicle, though a friend of his called police a day earlier expressing concerns over his well-being, and in earlier recordings, Wetzel is seen asking Gordon whether he was on any medications after the motorist nearly walked onto the parkway proper.
“We must, as a society, work for fundamental police reform to redistribute resources to communities that need it most and ensure that officers face punishment for their reckless actions in cases like Maurice Gordon’s,” Cunningham said.
The congressional candidate also condemned a Bayside State Prison corrections officer who was suspended after participating in a re-enactment of the killing of George Floyd, who died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned his neck under a knee for nearly nine minutes.
“More than at any other time we must say what we mean, and mean what we say by following through,” Cunningham said. “If we say ‘Black Lives Matter’ then we must ensure that they do by making sure both officers in the aforementioned video are fired.”