Friends and family of 36-year-old LaShanda Anderson say New Jersey police used excessive force when they killed the mother of three for allegedly shoplifting.
Reports indicate the incident happened Saturday at a Marshalls store in Deptford Township in South Jersey near Philadelphia. Police responded to the store when they received calls that Anderson and two other people were allegedly shoplifting.
When police arrived, Anderson and other women fled into a car while a man with them ran from police. Officers say Anderson drove the vehicle toward them and they ordered her to stop the vehicle, but she tried to run over them. One officer was reportedly struck by an open car door and another was almost hit.
An officer fired three shots at the car, fatally wounding Anderson. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
“I’m still hurt,” Anderson’s friend, Zoe Anne McLean, said in one televised report. “I’m hurting and she’s got three daughters. What are we going to tell the kids?”
The other suspect in the vehicle was taken into custody, and the one who ran from police is currently at large.
Activists are asking police to release any video footage of the shooting. None of the officers were wearing body cams, according to reports.
Walter Hudson, chairman of National Awareness Alliance, wants the Deptford Township Police Department to name the officers involved and release any footage from nearby surveillance cameras of the incident. His organization is also calling on the attorney general of New Jersey to take over the investigation.
“LaShansda cannot speak for herself because she is not with us,” Hudson said. “We want the new attorney general to investigate. We all know the country prosecutor has close relationship with the police. How can a fox investigate a fox over a chicken killing?”
Hudson also said he’s pushing for the New Jersey senate to pass a bill that would turn over all cases of police involved shootings to the attorney general. The bill was proposed in March by State Sen. Steven Sweeney and approved by the Senate in March with a 25-11 vote.
Similar legislation was vetoed by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“It is important that the deadly encounters resulting from official police actions are investigated thoroughly and fairly and that the public trusts the findings,” said Sweeney. “Independent investigations that are not associated with the county in which the death occurred will have more trust and credibility and will help remove any conflict of interest.”
Several civil rights organizations have announced their support for the bill, including the NAACP, the Black Issues Convention, the ACLU and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. Hudson said his organization is writing a letter to Sweeney to ensure the bill’s passage.