The Essex County Prosecutor’s office reported today that a grand jury declined to bring any charges against an undercover officer in the last summer’s shooting death of former Montclair resident DeFarra (Dean) Gaymon. Here is the official press release:
Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced today that an Essex County Grand Jury declined to bring any charges against Sheriff’s Officer Edward Esposito, 30, in connection with the shooting death of Atlanta businessman DeFarra Ivan Gaymon, 48.
On July 16, 2010 at approximately 6 p.m. Gaymon was fatally shot in Branch Brook Park in Newark by Esposito, an undercover Essex County Sheriff’s detective investigating complaints of public sexual activity.
According to the officer, he made an arrest in an unrelated case when he realized he had lost a pair of handcuffs during the arrest. After the suspect in that unrelated case was safely secured in the police vehicle, the officer told his partner he was going back into the woods to retrace his steps in an effort to find the missing handcuffs.
While bending down to retrieve the handcuffs, the plainclothes officer was approached by Mr. Gaymon who was engaged in a sex act at the time.
The officer pulled out his badge, identified himself as a police officer and informed Mr. Gaymon he was under arrest. Mr. Gaymon appeared to panic, assaulted the police officer and fled. A foot chase ensued. The officer made repeated commands to Mr. Gaymon to stop and submit. Mr. Gaymon ignored the officer’s commands. Gaymon did not raise his arms or make his hands visible and repeatedly threatened to kill the officer, Esposito said in a statement shortly after the event. Mr. Gaymon then lunged at and attempted to disarm the officer while reaching into his own pocket.
Fearing for his life, the officer discharged his service weapon, hitting Mr. Gaymon once. The officer then immediately called for help and attempted to assist Mr. Gaymon. When emergency medical personnel arrived, Mr. Gaymon was taken to University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at approximately 9 p.m. No weapon was recovered at the scene.
An autopsy confirmed Mr. Gaymon died as a result of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. An extensive effort to identify witnesses who may have seen all or part of the encounter between Mr. Gaymon and Officer Esposito was undertaken but no witnesses came forward.
Two experienced prosecutors presented the case to the grand jury. The 23 grand jurors had the option of initiating charges against Officer Esposito with regards to the death of Mr. Gaymon. Under New Jersey law, a police officer is permitted to use deadly force if he or she has a reasonable belief his life is threatened. The grand jury declined to bring any charges against the officer.
“Once again we want to express our condolences to the Gaymon family. This is a very sad and painful case but a grand jury – the voice of the community — has determined no crime was committed. We must respect that decision,’’ said Acting Prosecutor Murray.
The grand jury’s decision is certain to be controversial. Gay City News ran articles by Brooklyn freelancer Duncan Osbourne that suggested a pattern of entrapment in cases involving undercover arrests of gay men in Branch Brook Park.