A grand jury has declined to bring criminal charges against a New Jersey police officer who fatally shot a knife-wielding man during a standoff at the Jersey Shore in 2020.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office said late Tuesday that the actions of Asbury Park Police Sgt. Sean DeShader were justified under the circumstances, noting that Hasani Best held a knife throughout the 45-minute encounter with police and was not deterred by being shocked with a stun gun.
A spokesman for Best’s family on Wednesday denounced the decision.
“Attempts to demonize Hasani Best, who was unnecessarily murdered, and vindicate Officer Sean DeShader, who murdered this Black man immediately following the national civil rights reckoning in the post-George Floyd world, tells us nothing has changed,” said Randy Thompson, CEO of the advocacy group Help Not Handcuffs.
“There continues to be no transparency when police, prosecutors and judges abuse their positions and there are no protections for civilians within critical processes such as abuses within grand jury proceedings,” he said.
On Aug. 21, 2020, a neighbor called 911 to report a dispute taking place. Police arrived and spoke with a witness who said she had been assaulted by Best, who was inside the home with a knife, according to an account of the incident from the attorney general’s office.
Police told Best numerous times to drop the knife and come out of the home. A special response unit was called for, and while officers were awaiting its arrival, Best “opened the door and, among other things, made a sudden motion as if he was going to come toward the officers,” the statement read.
Shortly afterwards, while gesturing with the knife, Best said, “I’m gonna stab him.”
At that point, DeShader shot Best twice, fatally wounding him.
During a September 2020 news conference across the street from police headquarters, Carol Sanders, Best’s mother, said he did not deserve to be killed.
“He was talking to them and explaining his hurt, his feelings,” she said. “They didn’t have to take his life.”
According to the attorney general’s office, the shooting fell within the guidelines under which officers may use their weapons.
“An officer may use deadly force in New Jersey when the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm,” the office said.
Best’s family is pressing a wrongful death lawsuit against the officer, the city and others concerning the shooting.