PATERSON, NJ – Six months after Jacobe Hyatt was shot in the back and killed by a Paterson police officer on New Year’s morning, the case remains under investigation.
Hyatt, 38, was killed after authorities say officers at the scene of a street scuffle near the BP gas station on Broadway noticed he had a handgun. Authorities say Hyatt was told to drop the weapon and they say he was shot when he did not comply.
The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office normally refers all fatal police shootings to a grand jury to decide if charges should be filed.
“It has not yet been reviewed by the grand jury,’’ said Michael DeMarco, Chief Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor. “I am hopeful that within the coming months it will be presented.’’
Hyatt’s family – stunned when an autopsy revealed the 38-year-old man was shot in the back and not the abdomen as authorities originally reported – has retained an attorney and filed a notice that it may sue the City of Paterson.
“We have not heard anything from the prosecutor’s office or the City of Paterson,’’ said Hyatt’s brother, Michael. “They cut off communication with us as if we don’t exist.’’
The circumstances of his brother’s death are particularly difficult for Michael Hyatt because he is a state corrections officer and has undergone law enforcement training on the use of deadly force. “In order to use my gun, the suspect has to be a threat to me, but once you turn your back to me, you’re no longer considered a threat to me,’’ Hyatt said.
Paterson Police Officer Javier Gutierrez, who filed the fatal shot, was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting. City police officials did not respond to five phone messages seeking an update on Gutierrez’ status.
Authorities say Gutierrez, an eight-year-veteran, fired when Hyatt refused to drop the gun. The prosecutor’s office has said a weapon was found near Hyatt’s body.
On May 19, the Power Coalition of Paterson staged a march and rally outside City Hall to protest Hyatt’s death. Power Coalition leader Bilal Hakeem described the shooting as criminal behavior that showed a “fundamental disrespect for black life.”