Family Believes Police Shooting Was Not Justified
HAZLETON — The family of Jonathan Garay said they believe police were not justified in shooting the 26 year old, and they have hired an attorney.
The family disputes nearly everything investigators have said about what went down, especially where the shooting happened.
Video obtained by Newswatch 16 shows the back porch of 521 Alter Street where investigators said Jonathan Garay, 26, was shot by a Hazleton police officer after Garay allegedly reached for a gun that fell on the ground and tried to raise it towards police.
However, Garay’s family insists that is not what happened. They said their brother was shot inside the house in the kitchen and fell on top of his mother.
While the video does not show the actual shooting, we can see first responders entering and exiting the home, a stretcher being carried out, and someone using a flashlight to search the porch.
Police had been called to the neighborhood after a fight broke out, and witnesses reported a man with a gun, but neighbors said Garay did not match the description of the suspect.
“Person I saw had no shirt. Jonathan when he came to this home here, he had a shirt on, his gun was in his side but it wasn’t drawn, nothing like that,” said Jonathon Poltrok, a neighbor.
Family members claim after the shooting another relative in bed upstairs was tased by police.
A day later emotions still ran high as the family gathered on the porch of their double block home. The Garays have hired an attorney who advised them not to speak on camera without their lawyer present.
Relatives said Garay was licensed to carry a gun, had no significant criminal record, and was part owner of a deli just down the street from where he died.
Family members said their brother was a productive member of the community working long days at this deli, doing everything from making sandwiches to keeping the books.
“Always took care of his family, was always there, never got himself into any trouble,” said Ashley Singley, a neighbor.
People believe one of the officers who entered their home had a history with the family, after two relatives were arrested during a fight in 2010, but eventually walked free.
They claim the same officer told them as they left the court house, “I’m going to get you on something bigger.”
The Luzerne County District Attorney said the matter is under investigation, and the Hazleton police cannot comment on the family’s allegations.