Glassboro, NJ – A retired New Jersey police officer who fatally shot an armed teen 26 years ago has been fired from his job at Rowan University.
Protesters used a Change.org petition to demand the firing of retired Glassboro Police Officer Peter Amico, who had been working for the university for over a decade, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
While serving with the Glassboro Police Department (GPD) on April 17, 1994, Officer Amico responded to a domestic disturbance on Poplar Street, according to the Courier Post.
Officer Amico said that when he arrived at the scene, 14-year-old El Tarmaine “L.T.” Sanders charged at him with the 13-inch knife he had been chasing his 17-year-old cousin with, the Daily Mail reported.
The officer made “a split-second decision” to open fire, Rowan University President Ali Houshmand said in a letter to the university community.
Sanders died of his wounds.
The shooting took place in front of El Tarmaine’s mother, who had placed the call to police in an effort to get the boys to stop fighting, according to the Daily Mail.
She claimed that her son had stopped chasing his cousin by the time Officer Amico arrived, but that Officer Amico shot him anyway.
Protesters further alleged that police would have handled the situation much differently had it involved white children instead of black children, according to the Daily Mail.
A Gloucester County grand jury declined to charge Officer Amico, who was 29 years old at the time of the justified shooting, the Courier Post reported.
The U.S. Department of Justice investigated the shooting and also declined to take action against the officer.
Officer Amico went on to serve the GPD for another 15 years before he retired from the department in 2009, the Courier Post reported.
He began serving as a contractor with Rowan University’s Department of Public Safety one year prior to his GPD retirement, and started working full time at the university in 2010.
Retired Officer Amico took over as director of the Emergency Management Office in 2013, according to The Courier Post.
The petition, which was launched by independent educator James Johnson, declared that the university’s decision to ever hire the retired officer in the first place “was a revolting insult to the Sanders family and to African Americans everywhere.”
“Peter Amico’s continued presence as the person in charge says loudly that ‘Black Lives Don’t Matter’ at Rowan University,” Johnson wrote.
On June 8, Houshmand caved to the protesters’ demands and announced that Amico’s contract will not be renewed, the Courier Post reported.
“Amid the national spotlight on social justice and police matters, the University will not reappoint Peter Amico, director of Rowan’s Office of Emergency Management,” Houshmand wrote in his letter to the university community.
“Given the circumstances of Amico’s employment prior to serving at the university and the necessarily painstaking evaluation of Rowan’s institutional commitment to racial justice and equity, Amico’s employment will be discontinued,” he reiterated.
Houshmand said that the officer-involved shooting that occurred nearly three decades ago “led to pain and division in our community.”
“The Sanders family and many others protested and rallied in their pursuit of justice, but the legal system left them without further recourse,” the university president declared. “We cannot begin to imagine the Sanders’ family grief. Nothing can replace their loved one.”
Houshmand said that the university acknowledges the “difficulty” and “public scrutiny” law enforcement officers endure.
“As a university, we believe black lives matter,” he wrote. “We are looking hard at our own organization, our policies, structure and culture.”
Johnson’s petition garnered 3,566 votes before he declared it as a “victory” on June 9.
“Good citizens of our beautiful nation and the world, on behalf of the Sanders family and all others suffering the loss of a family member due to police violence, we have, with unity of action, won a measure of social justice in the long train of police abuse for Black Americans,” Johnson wrote in his victory update.
“Peter Amico is being dismissed and the university is investigating the systemic racism on its campuses,” he added. “In unity there is strength!”