New Jersey Judge Releases Accused Cop Killer Without Bail, No Electronic Monitor
Bridgeton, NJ – A judge released an accused cop killer from jail without bail on Thursday even though 18-year-old Zachary Latham stabbed an off-duty correctional officer to death in front of multiple people.
Latham, who fatally attacked his neighbor, 51-year-old New Jersey Correctional Police Officer William “Timmy” Durham Sr., with multiple knives, is facing multiple felony charges including first-degree aggravated manslaughter, according to NJ.com.
Police Benevolent Association (PBA) Local 105 Vice President Mike Gallagher, who previously worked with Officer Durham at South Woods State Prison, said his friend was “exceptional” and called his death a “senseless murder."
“He was a family man and he died a hero defending his family,” he told NJ.com.
Latham was being held in the Cumberland County Jail pending trial.
But at a detention hearing on Thursday, Superior Court Judge William F. Ziegler released Latham with no monetary restrictions or electronic monitoring.
The trouble began between the neighbors a few weeks ago when Officer Durham’s wife, Catherine, told Latham to slow down after she saw him speeding up the street, NJ.com reported.
Gallagher said Latham cursed out Catherine Durham and then began harassing the Durham family online.
A friend told NJ.com that Latham had “terrorized” the Durhams for several weeks.
He said the fight on Monday started after Latham swerved towards one of the Durhams’ sons as he was driving down the street shortly before 8 p.m., NJ.com reported.
That’s when Catherine Durham yelled at Latham again and he punched her, which set off the series of confrontations on May 4 that led to the officer’s death.
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said that Latham and his wife argued with Officer Durham and his wife in front of the Durhams’ home, NJ.com reported.
“It was reported by witnesses that a confrontation had occurred moments earlier between Latham and his wife and Durham Sr. and his wife, Catherine T. Durham,” Webb-McRae said in a statement released Wednesday, the Daily Journal reported.
The prosecutor said that Latham left and went home and armed himself with a knife and a stun gun.
Latham told police that when he left the Durhams’ house, he could see the off-duty officer and his sons – 21-year-old William Durham Jr. and a 17-year-old son – following him, according to NJ.com.
He confronted Officer Durham and his sons when they arrived at his residence.
The arrest affidavit said that Lathan told police one of the Durhams took a “fighting stance” and the brawl began in the driveway, NJ.com reported
Two of Latham’s friend joined the fight against the three Durhams while Latham’s wife filmed the incident on her cell phone.
Police said the fight continued into Latham’s garage and that’s when the 18-year-old deployed the stun gun on Officer Durham, and then attacked him with two knives, NJ.com reported.
The complaint said Durham was stabbed in the back and the left arm.
One of the knives Latham used to stab his neighbor had a four-inch blade, NJ.com reported.
Court documents said Latham stabbed Officer Durham "multiple times with a four-inch fixed blade knife during a physical confrontation," and then also tried to stab his neighbor’s older son, the Daily Journal reported.
The complaint said “William T. Durham was fatally wounded by the defendant during a prolonged physical assault” and was pronounced dead at 9:19 p.m., NJ.com reported.
Officer Durham was a 19-year-veteran of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
Latham was transported to Atlantic City Medical Center for treatment of a concussion, abrasions on his face and neck, and leg injuries, and was treated and released, the Daily Journal reported.
He was charged with first-degree aggravated manslaughter, two counts of second-degree aggravated assault, four counts of third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, The Press of Atlantic City reported.
Catherine Durham, who was married to Officer Durham for 32 years, has been charged with fourth-degree criminal trespass and simple assault, NJ.com reported.
The fallen officer’s sons were both charged with third-degree aggravated assault and fourth-degree criminal trespass.
The video filmed by Latham’s wife was taken by the police as evidence, according to the Daily Journal.
Court records showed that Latham was released on Level II pre-trial monitoring, which means he will have to report to court staff twice a month and is prohibited from having contact with the witnesses or being in the vicinity of Thornhill Road, The Press of Atlantic City reported.
Latham is also prohibited from having firearms, destructive devices, or any other dangerous weapons.
Blue Lives Matter reached out to the judge but had not received a response from Ziegler at publication time.