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State grand jury declines to criminally charge officer Involved in fatal shooting in Morris Township in 2020

MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ (Morris County) – A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Timothy O’Shea, 24, of Morris Township, who died when Sergeant Christopher Cornine of the Morris Plains Police Department fired his service weapon at O’Shea on July 14, 2020 in Morris Township.

The fatal police encounter was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to New Jersey residents called to serve on the grand jury in accordance with Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive” issued in 2019.

In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (“SOPs”) to ensure that these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, and with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the Independent Prosecutor Directive.

The investigation of this fatal police encounter included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, review of video footage, and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury concluded its deliberations on April 11, and voted “no bill,” meaning the grand jury determined that the actions of the officer who shot at Mr. O’Shea should not result in charges against him.

According to the investigation, at around 4:14 p.m., officers from the Morris Township, Morris Plains, and Morristown Police Departments were notified of a 911 caller reporting a domestic disturbance.

The caller reported that a person at the residence had cut himself and had a gun. Uniformed officers of the three police departments responded to the residence on Fairchild Avenue where O’Shea lived. Upon arrival, officers encountered the 911 caller and took that person into safety.

At around 4:19 p.m., officers encountered O’Shea, who was holding a pistol and bleeding from the neck and wrists. Officers pleaded with O’Shea to drop the weapon, but he did not comply. He then raised the weapon and pointed it in the direction of Sgt. Cornine, who then fired 4 shots, striking O’Shea twice.

Officers rendered medical aid until EMS arrived. EMS transported O’Shea to Morristown Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased at 5:41 p.m. The pistol that was in his hand was recovered at the scene and determined to be a replica Beretta 9mm airsoft pistol.

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.

After considering the evidence, testimony from the OPIA investigation, and instructions on the legal standards, including whether the officer’s actions were legally justified, the state grand jury determined that no criminal charges should be brought against the officer. 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.

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.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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