Attorney General James’ Office of Special Investigation Releases Report on Death of Quayshawn Samuel

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigation (OSI) today released its report on the death of Quayshawn Samuel, who died on December 29, 2022 in Queens. Following a thorough investigation, which included review of body-worn camera (BWC) and surveillance video footage, interviews with involved officers, and evidence from the scene, OSI concluded that a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer who shot Mr. Samuel was justified.

On the evening of December 29, three NYPD officers arrived at the lobby of an apartment building on Beach 54th Street in Far Rockaway, Queens to investigate potential criminal activity. When the officers arrived, Mr. Samuel ran out of the rear doors of the building and two officers pursued him on foot after one of them believed Mr. Samuel had a gun. During the pursuit, one of the officers dropped his radio, phone, and BWC, which prompted the other officer to stop and pick up the radio. 

The officer who dropped his equipment continued to chase Mr. Samuel through the courtyard of the apartment complex until they reached Beach 56th Street. After seeing a gun in Mr. Samuel’s hand, the officer directed him to drop the weapon, but Mr. Samuel refused to comply. A physical struggle then ensued on the ground, as Mr. Samuel continued to ignore the officer’s repeated requests. When Mr. Samuel pushed himself off the ground and raised a gun in the officer’s direction, the officer fired his gun in response. Mr. Samuel was taken to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. NYPD recovered a gun at the scene.

Under New York’s justification law, a person may use deadly physical force to defend against the imminent use of deadly physical force by another person. When the defense of justification is raised at trial, the prosecution must disprove justification beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, Mr. Samuel repeatedly refused to drop his gun and had then pointed his gun at the officer. Under these circumstances, based on the law and the evidence, a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer who fired was justified, and OSI determined that criminal charges could not be pursued in this matter.