In Our Opinion: Prosecutor Carey, End The Silence

Diahlo Grant Memorial - 3

A makeshift memorial at the Somerset Street site where Diahlo Grant was killed in a shootout with Franklin police.

It’s been nearly a week since a 27-year-old township resident was killed in what authorities have said was a gunfight with township police.

Diahlo Grant early in the morning of April 9 allegedly led two police officers on a short chase from the area of Somerset and Home streets, through a ravine and into New Brunswick. The officers had recognized Grant as being wanted on warrants out of Somerset and Middlesex counties, and he ran when they confronted him, according to reports.

The officers reportedly cornered Grant near a chain-link fence on a New Brunswick property when he allegedly fired a shot from a revolver, missing the officers. One officer reportedly returned fire, killing Grant.

The gun Grant used and a spent round from that gun were reportedly retrieved by police.

All of the preceding information was obtained from various sources on April 9. Since then, there has been complete silence on the part of the Middlesex County Prosecutor and township officials.

The only local leader who’s made any comment since then has been the Rev. DeForest Soaries, of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, located a short distance away from the site of Grant’s death. In that statement, Soaries said he would speak to township police Chief Lawrence Roberts and Carey, and would monitor the situation. Soaries has declined to comment further.

Franklin Township officials, on the advice of township attorney Louis Rainone, have stayed mum on the incident, regardless of whether they’d prefer to speak.

“(T)his incident is currently the subject of an investigation by the Middlesex County Prosecutors office with the full cooperation of the Township’s Police Department,” Rainone said in an email. “The Township Council plays no role in the investigation as it is precluded as a matter of law from interfering with or influencing the day to day operation of the Township Police Department. Until such time as the Prosecutor completes their investigation the Township will have no further comments.”

We understand that they could not comment on the investigation itself, but it would have been refreshing on April 9 to hear calming words from township leaders.

Questions about the investigation – especially why it is taking so long – have gone unanswered by Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey, whose agency is handling the inquiry. To put it bluntly, that’s just wrong.

What this silence has done is created an information vacuum, and, as Aristotle opined centuries ago, “Nature abhors a vacuum.”

The death of Diahlo Grant is a horror for all involved; for his family and friends, who are dealing with his sudden, violent death, and for the police officer who pulled the trigger, who now has to live with the fact that their action took the life of another (without making a value judgment on the circumstances).

In this era of video cameras in cell phones, police dash and body cams and postings on Facebook and YouTube, evidence exists from other parts of the country of the unjustified deaths and beatings of young people of color by police, not the least of which is the 2014 shooting by a Chicago police officer of Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times in 13 seconds. The officer who killed McDonald is facing six murder charges, but those charges were only levied after a public outcry and a release of police dash cam video months after the incident, which showed most of those shots were fired when McDonald was already on the ground. So it’s not hard to understand why, when another case of a person of color being killed by a police officer occurs, the default position in that community is to doubt initial reports by authorities.

And that’s the situation in which we find ourselves. Many of Grant’s family and friends do not believe the official report precisely because it is so devoid of details, and have many questions. There is also a call among some in the community for Carey to release the names of the officers involved. That will probably happen when a full report is made; regardless, we’re not taking a position on that.

In the meantime, rumors abound: Grant was standing at the fence with his hands up when he was shot. Grant didn’t have a gun. Grant had a gun, but didn’t shoot. Grant was shot six times. Grant was shot three times. Grant’s body lay on the ground for nearly nine hours.

A memorial was established the evening of April 9 at the site where Grant was killed, and family and friends have gathered there nightly to grieve and pay their respects. And talk. And question. And get angry.

What is so frustrating for them is that they have no answers. There is an informational vacuum. And in their need for closure, they are filling that vacuum with their own suppositions.

The lack of information does no one any good. It leaves Grant’s family and friends twisting in anguish, wondering what really happened. And it makes it infinitely harder for Franklin police in general – and specifically the officers involved – to do their jobs, because they now have a cloud hanging over them, in the eyes of a major part of our community.

The only way to answer these questions is for Carey to expedite the investigation, then release the full report. That includes recordings of any 9-1-1 calls and all radio transmissions, as well as Grant’s autopsy report.

It’s way past time, Mr. Carey. End your silence. Stop the speculation. Let us start to heal.

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