On the evening of Friday, August 7, two New Jersey police officers wildly fired at least 18 shots at 14-year-old Radazz Hearns. Seven shots hit Hearns from behind and caused catastrophic injuries. The other 11 bullets hit cars and homes in the quiet neighborhood where Hearns collapsed after being shot repeatedly. Miraculously, he lived.He was unarmed.
This is a big fucking deal.
What followed Hearns’ horrific shooting is a messy cover-up. It was an attempt to frame and criminalize a young man in order to protect the police from the consequences of their unlawful actions.
More details below.
Hours after the shooting, before the case received any national attention, there was this:
Police sources say the shooting occurred during a foot pursuit about 10:20 p.m. Friday. While running, the teen allegedly reached for a gun in his waistband, turned and fired at police, who fired back.
That first report, in any case like this, is key. It gives us the initial police narrative, before any public pressure has been applied. In this instance, we see what appears to be an open-and-shut case of a violent teenager who is lucky to be alive after firing a gun at police, who returned fire only to protect themselves.Three days after the shooting, and two days after the above news report, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office released a statement of its own. Notice the changes?
The three officers got out of their vehicle to question the boys. Hearns ran while the two other boys “obeyed the officers’ commands and were detained” by one of the State Police troopers. The statement did not detail the officers’ commands.During a foot chase, Hearns reached into his waistband, according to the statement.
The boy was treated at the scene and taken to the hospital suffering gunshot wounds to the legs and the buttocks.
The shift in the narrative was obvious. Now, instead of Hearns firing a gun at police, the official statement was that he simply reached into his waistband and was fired upon.Between August 7 and August 18, the story of the shooting of Radazz Hearns became nationally known. As pressure mounted for police to be held responsible, it was clear that either the police or Hearns would face some kind of criminal charges. Eleven days after first being accused of shooting at the police, then being accused of simply reaching into his waistband, the police finally settled on a brand new story and charged Hearns with multiple felonies.
Now, they aren’t claiming that Hearns shot at them or that he reached into his waistband, but that he was running with a gun and maybe pointed it at them. Then they unloaded on him.
The problem with this, beyond the fact that it was the third police version of events, is that the evidence simply doesn’t prove anything of the sort. Let’s break it down.
The local newspaper in the area, The Trentonian, did its own investigation. Reporters spoke to a whole host of experts, retired police, and investigators who, without fail, each found the case to be enormously flawed.
First off, after shooting Radazz Hearns seven times, police didn’t find a gun anywhere near him. They taped off the entire scene between where he ran and where he was shot, which was less than 100 feet, and found nothing. They brought dogs in to find a gun, and the dogs found nothing. They searched throughout the night and into daylight and still found nothing whatsoever.
This is no small fact. The first story was that police unloaded on Hearns because he shot at them. Then the second story was that they unloaded on him because he reached into his waistband. Then finally, the story became they unloaded on him because he pointed a gun at them, but no evidence of guns or bullets not belonging to police was found near his bullet-riddled body.
Isaac Avilucea of The Trentonian actually uncovered something very strange that it appears the police and the attorney general’s office tried to conceal.
Police ordered the fire department to search the roof of a nearby building to find the gun. That wasn’t included on any initial reports.
The rooftop search took place not long after a State Police trooper and Mercer County sheriff’s officer fired on Hearns. Authorities have refused to say how many times each officer fired.It is unclear if the police officers who shot Hearns were also the ones who requested the ladder or if it was another officer.
But it is clear Trenton Police officers assisting at the scene climbed on top of the roof of a Louise Lane townhouse in search of the gun.
This was confirmed by multiple sources, including two high-ranking Trenton firefighters who responded to the shooting scene to tend to Hearns and render aid to investigators. A corrections officer who lives across the street from the Louise Lane townhouse also confirmed the search occurred.
Firefighters discussed the rooftop search in a surreptitiously recorded 13-minute conversation.
Are you tracking this madness?Still, no gun was found.
Finally, a full 12 hours later, police claimed they found a small handgun a full 150 feet from where Hearns was shot. Investigators from Daily Kos and The Trentonian both went to the scene of the shooting and personally confirmed this distance. The gun was so far away that it was actually found outside of the cordoned-off crime scene area. Police claimed it was under the wheel of an emergency vehicle, but it was so far away from the scene that it would’ve required a superhuman feat for anyone to throw the gun that far away.
It’s not just suspicious, it’s ridiculous.
Dr. Phillip Stinson of Bowling Green State University told The Trentonian:
“If he’s pointing a handgun at them and they then immediately shoot him, that gun would have been right there,” he said. “It wouldn’t have taken them 12 hours. That doesn’t add up. Typically, the way these things happen, if he had a gun and the police shoot him, the gun would drop with the kid.“I’m not suggesting an officer dropped it, but there have been many cases in the past where that is exactly what happened,” he said. “The only reason to do that is to cover up a bad shooting.
Let’s not hold back here.Nothing scares the hell out of police like the thought of going to jail. I’ve had multiple current and former officers communicate to me that police will do damn near anything to avoid jail time.
What we see in this case is police officers who used reckless and excessive force against a young man changing their story again and again and again until they found one they thought could best help them avoid any real consequences.
Why’d they tell the media the day after they shot Hearns that he fired at them first? Witnesses have disputed this from the beginning.
Multiple witnesses said they heard Hearns, while he was on the ground and on a stretcher screaming, “Why did they shoot me?” That’s a crazy thing for a kid who just pointed (or fired) a gun at police to be screaming.
It’s enough that this young man was shot seven times; we cannot then fast-track him to prison simply because police refuse to accept any hardcore accountability. This case, and everything about it, is a complete mess. We cannot simply accept the direction it’s going in—or only Radazz Hearns will pay the price.
UPDATE: Police are now being investigated (by themselves) for leaking confidential information about Radazz Hearns. They are desperate and willing to break laws to protect their own.