The family of a 39-year-old who was killed by Asbury Park police during a standoff in August is planning to file a civil lawsuit alleging his death was a “wrongful killing,” NJ Advance Media has learned.
Attorney Sanford Rubenstein said Hasani Best’s family plans to file a civil lawsuit against the city of Asbury Park and Sgt. Sean DeShader, who fired the fatal shots after a more than 45-minute standoff in which Best was armed with a knife.
“Clearly, the video demonstrates that the officer who fired the shots was not in any immediate danger and this is a wrongful killing,” Rubenstein said in a phone interview Wednesday.
He said the family is in the process of appointing an administrator to Best’s estate and then a lawsuit will be filed. Rubenstein said at it is unclear if it will be filed in state or federal court.
In the meantime, Rubenstein said the family’s focus is what happens next in the criminal process. They have called on DeShader to be fired from the police department and criminally charged. DeShader is currently on administrative leave, according to an Asbury Park police spokesman.
The Attorney General’s office, which released video of the deadly shooting last month, has not made a finding into the officer’s actions and said the investigation remains ongoing. Under law, the case must be presented to a grand jury to determine if criminal charges should be filed.
Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, said when the office’s full investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury. He said due to the ongoing pandemic, grand juries have “been authorized, but are not yet empaneled and hearing cases.”
“We will make an announcement after the case has been presented to a grand jury,” Aseltine said.
Rubenstein said Best’s family is cooperating with law enforcement and is “focused on holding (DeShader) criminally responsible” for the father of three’s death after they viewed the video.
The video shows police arriving to a multi-family home in Asbury Park shortly after 9 p.m. on Aug. 21 after authorities received a call for a domestic dispute.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s office released this video Sept. 22, 2020, of an Asbury Park police officer fatally shooting a man in August 2020. This is a 7-minute clip of the 45 minutes of footage and all censorship was done by officials before releasing the footage.
Upon arrival, Best barricaded himself in a room on the second-floor armed with a knife. Within minutes, the officers attempted to use a Taser on Best, but it was unsuccessful, according to the video.
Over the next 45 minutes, DeShader and the other officers continually plead with Best to drop the knife and come out of the room with his hands up.
“Come on, Mr. Best,” DeShader said. “We’ve dealt with you too many times. Just put the knife down.”
Best can be heard on the video repeatedly refusing pleas by police to drop the knife. He told the cops that he was “tired” and they should “just do what you gotta do, please.” He even told the officers they would be justified in using deadly force because he had a weapon and the Taser was unsuccessful, according to the video.
“I’m tired. Tired. And again, you’re justified. ‘He had a weapon, came at y’all.’ Did the bulls–t with the f—ing taser,” Best told the officers through the door. “Be a f—ing man. Knock the door down and do what you gotta do.”
At one point, Best and the officers began joking about cutting DeShader’s hair.
But the lightened mood quickly turned tense again when Best opened the door again and refused to put down the knife, according to the video. He quickly moved toward the officers, but remained in the room with door less than halfway open.
“Don’t do that,” DeShader said.
“I’m gonna stab him” Best replied.
DeShader then fires at least two shots at Best, the video shows. The video does not show Best advancing toward the officers just before the shots are fired.
Best was pronounced dead at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center shortly thereafter.
In the weeks after the deadly shooting, Best’s family said they were left in the dark about how the incident turned deadly. After the video was released, the family said the fatal force used by DeShader was unwarranted.
“He didn’t deserve this,” Carol Sanders, who raised Best and considers herself his mother, said at a September protest. “They didn’t have to take his life. They were laughing and joking with him. Then they shot him.”
The family and activists are planning another protest in Asbury Park at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
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Joe Atmonavage may be reached at [email protected].