S.B. officers cleared
in Dec. fatal shooting
Family of victim
is ‘outraged’ over
grand jury finding
Middlesex County grand jury has determined that the officers involved in a fatal December shooting in Kendall Park were legally justified.
According to a report released by the County Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday, the grand jury found that Sgt. Raymond Hayducka "was legally justified" when he fired the shot that eventually took the life of 30-year-old Kyung Ho La during a tense confrontation Dec. 20.
The grand jury reviewed the testimony of 18 witnesses as well as 30 items of evidence during their deliberations.
While the report cleared the officers of criminal wrongdoing, it did question the training of the officers involved in handling the incident.
Some of the jurors questioned if the officers were prepared to deal with someone with a mental deficiency, and if other measures could have been used to prevent the loss of life.
According to the report, Hayducka, and Patrolman Scott Williams, joined three other officers in escorting two mental health workers to the 27 Raleigh Road home La shared with his parents, Bak and Myung Ok La, to evaluate him.
According to police, the evaluation was to determine if La was a danger to himself or others after they received reports of bizarre behavior by La over a period of time.
The report states that police called the home prior to the visit to announce the purpose of the visit, and their intentions.
Upon arriving at the home at approximately 3:40 p.m., La’s father suggested that the visitors meet with his son in the garage of the home.
According to the report, La became agitated when being interviewed by one of the mental health workers and re-entered the house and immediately picked up a sword blade measuring between 18-20 inches long.
La refused the repeated commands by the officers to drop the weapon, retreating further inside the home.
Weapons drawn, Hayducka and Williams followed La at close range fearing for the safety of La’s mother inside the home.
According to the report, the three other officers waited outside the home as back-up.
La then lunged at Hayducka with the sword blade.
Hayducka stepped back to avoid the blade, firing a shot at La.
Additional officers were called to the house after the shot was fired.
La then retreated further into the home, still grasping the blade, according to the report.
After about 10 minutes, La laid down on the living room floor and surrendered the blade and was arrested.
It was then that the officers first knew definitely that La had been injured, the report said.
La was transported to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick where he underwent two surgeries for his wounds.
La died at about 1:50 a.m. the following morning.
An autopsy by Acting Medical Examiner Frederick DiCarlo determined that La died from hemorrhagic shock (blood loss) as the result of a single gun shot wound which entered the right hip area, and damaged a number of organs and severed the left femoral artery.
Livingston Attorney Bruce Nagel, who represents the La family, took issue with the version of events, saying that it would be "virtually impossible" for La to sustain such injury and run into another room.
"The entire story is preposterous," Nagel said in a prepared statement, calling for the state attorney general to review the case.
South Brunswick Police Chief Michael Paquette said that while the grand jury questioned the training of the officers in the situation, simply following their commands could have averted the incident
"Although tragic, the incident could have been prevented by Mr. La complying with the officers requests," Paquette said in a news release.
Paquette said that his agency is one of the most highly and professionally trained in the state and that officers logged some 4,000 hours of training last year alone.
Paquette said that Williams and Hayducka received cultural and diversity training at the New Jersey Community Policing Institute, and Williams had additional sensitivity training during his tenure at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.
"This was a situation brought on by Mr. La himself, which put the officers, mental health screeners, his family, and neighbors at risk of serious bodily harm," Paquette said.