A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Carl Dorsey III, 39, of South Orange, N.J., who was shot and fatally wounded by a Newark police detective just after midnight on January 1, 2021.
Dorsey’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, review of video and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing the testimony and evidence, the grand jury concluded its deliberations Tuesday, January 24, 2023, and voted “no bill,” meaning the grand jury concluded no criminal charges should be filed against Detective Rod Simpkins of the Newark Police Department, the officer who fired his service weapon.
Based on the investigation, the shooting occurred shortly after midnight on South 11th Street near Woodland Avenue in Newark, N.J. A group of twelve (12) plain clothes detectives assigned to the Newark Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, who were on patrol detail for New Year’s Eve, responded in separate unmarked police vehicles to South 11th Street from Avon Avenue after hearing gunshots in that area. Detective Simpkins was the rear seat passenger of the lead police vehicle as they turned onto South 11th Street. According to the detectives, as they approached in their vehicles, some of them observed muzzle flashes and individuals discharging and holding handguns. Detective Simpkins immediately exited his vehicle with his service weapon drawn. According to Detective Simpkins, his focus was on two individuals with guns located north of him with whom he was about to engage. Detective Simpkins was physically struck from the side by an individual, later identified as Carl Dorsey, which caused Detective Simpkins to fall to the ground. As Det. Simpkins was falling to the ground, his service weapon discharged once, striking Mr. Dorsey, who was not armed with a weapon.
None of the detectives were equipped with body worn cameras at the time of the incident. However, home surveillance footage captured Mr. Dorsey running across the street from the westside to the eastside and colliding with Detective Simpkins just after Simpkins exited his vehicle. Detectives rendered medical aid to Mr. Dorsey until EMS personnel arrived. Mr. Dorsey was transported to University Hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 1:37 a.m.
Shortly after Mr. Dorsey was shot, an individual whom officers saw pointing a gun was apprehended after discarding the gun at the scene on South 11th Street. That individual was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to 4th degree pointing a firearm. A shell casing recovered from the scene matched the gun that was recovered near the person who was arrested.
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.
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.