The NJ Attorney General’s Office has released video footage from three body cameras and a 9-1-1 call related to the death of Bayonne resident Lee Waskiewicz, 47. He died on June 7 when officers from the Bayonne Police Department fired their service weapons at him multiple times, killing him.
Responding to ‘domestic disturbance’
Uniformed officers of the BPD responded to a 9-1-1 call made at approximately 6:30 a.m. on June 7, reporting a domestic disturbance at a residence on West 1st Street.
In the 9-1-1 call, Waskiewicz’s mother says that he is “wrecking my kitchen up” in a fit of “rage” after being awakened by fireworks. While she calls him “disturbed” and “crazy,” his mother indicates he does not have a weapon during the call. Waskiewicz’s mother asks police to bring him to the emergency room and “do something to calm him down, too.”
Three officers arrive on the scene, two of whom have been identified as Timothy Ballance, Jr. and Edward Taveras. Ballance, Taveras, and another unidentified officer meet with Waskiewicz’s mother outside of the residence, where she cites Waskiewicz’s behavior as the reason she called the police and an ambulance.
They briefly discuss Waskiewicz’s medical treatment, but many parts of the conversation are redacted. From their conversation, Waskiewicz’s mother says he has been “knocking down the ceiling” in the kitchen and “going crazy,” which prompts her to call an ambulance and the police. She asks officers to “restrain him” if an ambulance will not take him.
Waskiewicz’s mother escorts officers into the home, passing through the kitchen which shows visible damage to the ceiling. Inside, officers call Waskiewicz down from the third floor. He appears at the bottom of the steps in only his underwear.
Upon seeing the police, Waskiewicz goes back upstairs. He begins to yell inaudibly as music plays ambiently in the background. Ballance and Taveras follow him up the stairs but stop halfway once they spot Waskiewicz.
When Taveras asks Waskiewicz to come down to talk to him, Waskiewicz yells for the officers to leave and threatens to stab them. Waskiewicz comes back to the stairs armed with a knife, at which point both Ballance and Taveras draw their weapons. Waskiewicz dares the officers to shoot him.
“Shoot me,” he says. In response, Taveras says: “I’m not going to shoot you.”
Meanwhile, the officers repeatedly ask Waskiewicz to drop the knife. But Waskiewicz refuses and threatens to stab them if they approach further.
“Come up here, and I’ll f*cking stab you,” Waskiewicz says.
Moments later, Waskiewicz’s legs are seen walking toward the officers on the body camera footage before approximately seven or so gunshots ring out. Ballance and Taveras fire their service weapons, fatally wounding Waskiewicz.
The officers are forced down the stairs as Waskiewicz’s body tumbles down the stairwell and into the kitchen. Medical aid is rendered by the officers until emergency medical personnel arrive and transport Waskiewicz to Bayonne Medical Center, where he is pronounced dead at approximately 7:43 a.m.
The fatal incident remains under investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability. These recordings were released in response to an OPRA request and pursuant to policies established by the Attorney General in 2019 that are designed to promote the fair, impartial, and transparent investigation of fatal police encounters.
Prior to the release, investigators discussed the matter with Waskiewicz’s relatives and provided them copies of the recordings to review. The recordings are posted at njoag.app.box.com/s/fkapr0kmgkzs20qmhoip1tf1row5vhs9.
When the investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury that will decide whether criminal charges will be filed.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.