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Soaries: Feds Need To Investigate Diahlo Grant Case For Civil Rights Violations, Prosecutor Investigation’s Integrity

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The Rev. DeForest B. Soaries, right, has asked U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, left, to investigate the Diahlo Grant case. The two are pictured here in January 2015, when Soaries presented Fishman with the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens’ Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award.


Following  through on a promise made in July, the Rev. DeForest “Buster” Soaries Oct. 24 called on the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey to launch a two-pronged investigation into the police shooting of a 27-year-old township man.

In an Oct. 24 letter to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, Soaries asked for an investigation into whether Grant’s civil rights were violated by township police, and whether the investigation by Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey’s office was tainted by racial bias.

Soaries’ call came hours after Carey released a statement exonerating the officers involved in the shooting death of Diahlo Grant, who was killed after exchanging gunfire with two police officers early in the morning of April 9.

Soaries in July said that he would call for a federal investigation into the case after the criminal investigation by Carey had been completed. At the time, Soaries said he was interested in “supplementing” the criminal investigation with “a look at the civil rights implications.”

In his Oct. 24 statement – the result of a 6-month investigation into the case – Carey said the use of deadly force by one officer was justified.

Soaries, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens on Route 27, said he was calling for the federal review of the case “to gain conclusive answers to outstanding questions held by the family and community concerning this tragic incident.”

Soaries said that even though he has “high regards” for the township police department, “there is a need for this request.”

“While there exists a relatively healthy relationship between black citizens and law enforcement in our community, it is impossible to ignore the significance of this incident in light of efforts to close gaps in understanding and respect between police personnel and African Americans throughout the nation,” he said. “In order to maintain the confidence in law enforcement required for harmonious community living, it is critical that incidents such as the Grant shooting be investigated so thoroughly and impartially that the outcome of such investigations can withstand any level of public and legal scrutiny.”

In his letter to Fishman, Soaries said that “for many, it is impossible to separate this incident from both historical and recently documented instances of racial profiling, mistaken identity arrests, excessive use of force, and wrongful death incidents that African Americans experience with greater frequency and at higher numbers than the general population. In order to maintain the confidence in law enforcement required for harmonious community living, it is critical that incidents such as the Grant shooting be investigated so thoroughly and impartially that the outcome of such investigations can withstand any level of public and legal scrutiny.”

Soaries said he was requesting the federal investigation even though he has no reason to question Carey’s integrity or his investigation into the case.

Nothing that police stops and search have “long been the focus of civil rights advocates and law enforcement officials concerned with fairness and the respect of civil liberties,” Soaries said the question of the initial stop by township police of Grant “and all
following events demand detailed review from a civil rights perspective. My first request is an investigation concerning the possible violation of Mr. Grant’s civil rights.”

Grant was initially stopped by township police on patrol when they recognized him as having warrants for parole violation and non-payment of child support.

Regarding his request for a review of Carey’s investigation, Soaries said “there are too many instances where investigations such as these have been tainted by racial bias within the investigatory process itself. We want our community to be satisfied that this investigation is free of such bias and behavior, respectful of the civil rights of Grant, his family and the community, and thorough
and fair.”

In January 2015, Soaries hosted Fishman at First Baptist Church, where the lawman was awarded the church’s Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award. During the presentation, Soaries called Fishman “an advocate for all that is right and an opponent to all things unfair.”

 

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