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Grand Jury Declines to File Charges in Police-Involved Shooting in Long Branch that Killed Virginia Man on November 6, 2021

TRENTON — A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Mark D. Walker II, 34, of Woodbridge, Virginia, who was shot and fatally wounded by police officers in Long Branch, N.J., on November 6, 2021.

Mr. Walker’s death was investigated by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to New Jersey residents serving on the grand jury in accordance with the Independent Prosecutor Directive of 2019. In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the directive.

The investigation included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, and a review of body-worn camera footage, video surveillance, motor vehicle recording footage, and autopsy results from the medical examiner. This evidence, including video of the incident, as well as interviews of the involved officers, was presented to the grand jury. After hearing the testimony and evidence, and receiving instructions on the law, the grand jury concluded its deliberations Monday, May 15, 2023, and voted “no bill,” meaning the grand jury concluded that no criminal charges should be filed against Monmouth County Emergency Response Team (MOCERT) Officers Daniel Murphy, Omar Akel, and Eric Voorand.

According to the investigation, on Nov. 5 at approximately 5:10 p.m., members of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office were attempting to execute a residential search warrant on Chelsea Avenue in Long Branch. As county detectives were executing the warrant, Mr. Walker shot one of the detectives in the lower leg.

The county detective who was shot in the leg was taken to a local hospital and discharged later in the evening. The detectives retreated and repositioned outside of the building, and Mr. Walker barricaded himself inside with his two-week-old infant. The MOCERT was deployed and took over the scene.

Negotiators contacted Mr. Walker, who expressed his desire to surrender. He was provided with directions about how to do so safely, specifically that a family member planned to respond to the residence and take the baby, after which Walker would surrender. Negotiations continued for approximately seven hours, without success. Mr. Walker stated on numerous occasions that he would surrender, but each time failed to do so. Around 2 a.m., a fire erupted in the apartment building. Mr. Walker fled the building, holding the infant in his arms. As he ran out of the burning building, Mr. Walker fired several rounds from a handgun in the officers’ direction and struck a BearCat vehicle parked in the roadway. Three members of MOCERT returned fire and fatally wounded Mr. Walker, who was pronounced dead at the scene. The infant was not injured. The entire residence caught fire and sustained extensive fire damage. It was later determined by the Fire Marshall that the fire was intentionally set from within the building.

The officers who fired at Mr. Walker were identified as Patrolman Eric Voorand of the Manalapan Township Police Department, Patrolman Daniel Murphy of the Howell Township Police Department, and Patrolman Omar Akel of the Middletown Township Police Department.

The recordings were previously released and posted online: Click here for the recordings.

A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the Attorney General’s Office to 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. It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved. The grand jury is instructed on the elements of the potential criminal offenses, including criminal homicide offenses, that could be brought and, as required by statutes, the grand jury is instructed on self-defense and other forms of legal justification.

A conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation. Prior to presentation to the grand jury, the investigation was reviewed by OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations in the SOPs.

At the conclusion of these investigations, pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any principal should be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for administrative review in accordance with the AG’s Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures. OPIA monitors any resulting review and takes such actions as are necessary to ensure that the review is completed in a timely fashion, and that appropriate actions are taken based on the results of the review.

The Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website at this link:
https://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/directives/ag-Directive-2019-4.pdf

Further information about how fatal police encounters are investigated in New Jersey under the directive is found at this link:
https://www.njoag.gov/independent-prosecutor/

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