Man patted down by Gov. Whitman killed

May 27, 2008 11:11:35 AM PDT
A troubled young man who had a bit part in one of the biggest scandals weathered by former Gov. Christie Whitman has been killed.

Authorities say 28-year-old Sherron Rolax was shot and killed just before 1 a.m. on Saturday during a fight on a Camden street. No one has been charged with the killing.

Eight years ago, Rolax became the unlikely symbol of racial profiling in New Jersey, but his story is even older than that.

Then-Gov. Whitman, a Republican, joined state troopers patrolling some of the drug-dealing hotspots in Camden one night in 1996 so she could see for herself a crackdown in progress.

During the night, the governor was photographed with a smile on her face as she patted down Rolax, who is black and was then a teenager. No drugs or weapons were found on him.

The photo surfaced in the media in 2000, just before the Republican National Convention was held in nearby Philadelphia.

At the time, allegations of racial profiling by troopers was a huge public issue in New Jersey. Eventually, a federal monitor was assigned to help end the practice.

After the photo was made public, Whitman said it was a mistake for her to pat down a suspect.

Rolax later sued Whitman, who resigned her office in 2001 to become administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency. But a judge threw out the civil rights suit, saying Rolax filed after the statute of limitations had run out.

Rolax has been in and out of prison on drug convictions over the years. When he was killed, he was out on parole.