New documents filed in a lawsuit suggest that a sheriff's deputy may have had DeFarra Gaymon under control just before he shot and killed the unarmed man during a 2010 public sex sting in a Newark park.
“Officer Esposito chased decedent Gaymon to a pond located within the park,” wrote Christopher W. Kinum, the attorney for the Gaymon family, in an amended complaint filed in federal court on February 15. “Decedent Gaymon got down on his knees. At this point, decedent Gaymon had no avenue of escape due to the pond being in front of him… Officer Esposito approached decedent Gaymon from behind. Defendant Officer Esposito kicked decedent Gaymon several times.”
The complaint asserts that Edward Esposito, a sheriff’s deputy in the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, then drew his gun and fired a single shot into the 48-year-old Gaymon’s stomach, killing him.
“At the time he was shot, Defarra was unarmed and helpless, and in no way posed a threat to Defendant Officer Esposito’s safety or to the safety of any other persons,” wrote Kinum, who wrote in a separate brief that he was relying on “Officer Esposito’s written statement made three days after the shooting.”
That statement has not been made public.
The killing occurred in Newark’s Branch Brook Park on July 16, 2010. In 2011, an Essex County grand jury declined to indict Esposito on any criminal charges. The Gaymon family sued Esposito, the county, the sheriff’s office, and two senior officers in that office in 2011. The amended complaint names additional sheriff’s officers.
In a 2011 statement, the Essex County prosecutor’s office said the chase led to the pond, with Gaymon repeatedly threatening Esposito, and that Gaymon “then lunged at and attempted to disarm the officer while reaching into his own pocket. Fearing for his life, the officer discharged his service weapon, hitting Mr. Gaymon once.”
Esposito and his partner were in plainclothes and conducting a public sex sting. Just prior to the shooting, they fought with another man and Esposito lost his handcuffs. After that first man was secured, Esposito went back into the park to retrieve his handcuffs when he encountered Gaymon, “who was engaged in a sex act at the time,” according to the prosecutor’s statement.
Esposito is the sole witness to the killing.
In 2009, Esposito was involved in three public sex arrests that also turned violent. Resisting arrest was charged in another two Esposito arrests that year. Gaymon was the head of an Atlanta credit union and was in Newark to attend his high school reunion. He was married with four children.
These new facts make the circumstances of the killing murkier. None of the parties in the lawsuit responded to emails seeking an explanation or comment. The prosecutor’s office referred questions to the attorney representing the county.
“How did DeFarra Gaymon end up dead?” said William Dobbs, a longtime gay activist who has followed the case closely. “The latest court papers are alarming. Let’s hope some truth comes out. On a beautiful, sunny day, how and why did an unarmed man get killed?”
It is possible that Kinum has selected facts that are most favorable to his clients just as Esposito may have colored his facts or even lied to present himself in the best light.
An equally likely explanation is that Esposito invited Gaymon and other men to expose themselves or touch him, then arrested them when they did. That trick –– which would make the exposure or groping legal under New Jersey law –– might have made the men angry enough to fight back. They might also have believed that a man who seconds earlier had urged them to engage in sexual conduct was not a police officer, but posed a threat of some kind, leading them to react with violence.
Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s statewide gay lobby, was still reviewing the court documents as Gay City News went to press. That group has questioned the shooting and the investigation into the shooting repeatedly.