TRENTON, N.J., JULY 31 -- A grand jury declined today to indict a white police officer in the shooting of a black teenager whose death this year sparked rioting in the New York City suburb of Teaneck.
After announcing the grand jury's decision, state Attorney General Robert Del Tufo said he wants to present the case to a new grand jury because of errors he said were made in the autopsy.
The grand jury investigated the death of Phillip Pannell, 16, of River Edge, who was shot in the back by Teaneck Police Officer Gary Spath, 29, on April 10. Pannell's death sparked a night of racially motivated rioting in Teaneck, where angry youths rampaged in an area near police headquarters. Later, black community activists organized marches.
The attorney general maintained that errors in the autopsy by the Bergen County medical examiner "led to an incorrect conclusion concerning the possible actions of Mr. Pannell at the time he was shot."
A key question before the grand jury was whether Pannell had raised his hands in the air and pleaded with police not to shoot, as some witnesses said, or whether he twice stopped and turned in a threatening way toward the officers.