A state grand jury in Newark has voted not to file any criminal charges against a Hillsborough police officer, who shot and fatally wounded a 43-year-old Hillsborough man in 2021, according to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.
The Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) investigated the death of Patrick Chin 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, according to a press release through the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General (AG).
The investigation included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, review of motor vehicle recording footage, and autopsy results from the medical examiner. This evidence, including audio of the incident, as well as video interviews of the involved officers and other eyewitnesses when available, is presented to the grand jury.
After hearing the testimony and evidence, the grand jury concluded its deliberations Feb. 13, and voted “no bill,” meaning the grand jury concluded no criminal charges should be filed against Hillsborough Police Officer George Kokinakous, according to the press release.
According to the investigation, uniformed officers of the Hillsborough Township Police Department responded to Chin’s residence on Piedmont Path at approximately 4:10 p.m. on Sept. 28, 2021 in response to a request that the police check on the welfare of Chin.
According to officers, they encountered Mr. Chin inside the home wielding an approximately three-foot-long sword. Officers gave repeated commands to drop the sword, but Chin refused to comply. Chin bore self-inflicted wounds from a sharp object. Officers used OC (pepper) spray to attempt to disarm Chin, which was unsuccessful. Instead, Chin charged at Kokinakous with the sword. In response, Kokinakous discharged his weapon four times, striking Chin, according to the press release.
The Hillsborough Police Department was not equipped with body-worn cameras (BWC) at the time of the incident and there is no body-camera footage or other video footage that captures the actual shooting. Kokinakous had the microphone for his vehicle’s MVR (mobile video recorder) on his person at the time of the incident and audio was captured. The MVR recording was previously released and is posted online, according to the press release.
Officers rendered medical aid until emergency medical personnel arrived. Chin was pronounced deceased at approximately 5:28 p.m., according to the press release.
A state law requires the AG’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. The grand jury is instructed on the elements of the potential criminal offenses, including criminal homicide offenses, that could be brought and, as required by statutes, the grand jury is instructed on self-defense and other forms of legal justification, according to the press release.
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, according to the press release.
At the conclusion of the 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 and 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, according to the press release.