Middlesex County sheriff’s officer cleared in Plainsboro fatal shooting

A state grand jury has decided not to file criminal charges against a Middlesex County sheriff’s officer who a Plainsboro man was killed last year.

The grand jury concluded its deliberations on Aug. 21 after hearing testimony and evidence including video of the incident involving Officer Phillip Nguyen who fatally shot 45-year-old Atiba Lewis, the State Attorney General’s Office said.

Lewis was shot shortly after 11:30 a.m. on February 16, 2022, on the street of his Plainsboro apartment complex.

Middlesex County sheriff’s officers assisted by other law enforcement agencies arrived to serve a civil order to remove Lewis from an apartment on Ravens Crest Drive.

During the encounter, sheriff’s officers observed firearms in Lewis’ home, which he was prohibited from possessing by law. A Superior Court judge authorized a search warrant for the apartment where the four guns were recovered, the Attorney General’s Office said.

The search warrant was executed while Lewis was not at home and when he returned around 11:30 am, officers attempted to arrest him for unlawful possession of firearms. As officers approached, Lewis pulled out a knife, fled and continued to threaten officers with the knife, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

The officers used Tasers in an attempt to subdue him, with no success. Video of the incident released by the Attorney General’s Office showed officers repeatedly telling Lewis to drop the knife, but he lunged at the officers with the weapon several times.

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Around 11:35 a.m., knife in hand, Lewis advanced directly toward Nguyen, who then fired his weapon, fatally wounding Lewis. The video showed Lewis fall onto the hood of a police car and slide to the ground, dropping a bottle of water and the knife. Officers and emergency medical personnel treated Lewis, who was taken to a Princeton-area hospital where he was pronounced dead at 12:10 p.m.

State law requires the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations into the death of a person that occurred during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the deceased was in custody.

The law requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine whether the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved.

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Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, courts and other issues. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Middlesex sheriff’s officer cleared in Plainsboro fatal shooting

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