MAHWAH, N.J. -- The gathering started, as it does each spring, with members of the Ramapough Lenape Indian tribe meeting for a cookout and a day in the woods, celebrating the warm weather and the beauty of the Earth.
It ended with one of the tribe members mortally wounded, shot three times by a state park police officer who had told the Indians they were not allowed to ride their all-terrain vehicles in the area.
The death 10 days later of Emil Mann, 45, of Monroe, N.Y., has tensions running high, with the tribe decrying years of bias, state officials pleading for calm, and a grand jury investigating whether the April 1 shooting of the unarmed man was justified.
''It's murder," said Rodney Van Dunk, a cousin of the tribal chief. ''Even a bear doesn't get shot three times."
The lawyer for rookie officer Chad Walder, who killed Mann, said his client used deadly force to protect himself and a fellow officer, fearing Mann was trying to grab the policeman's gun.
''He feels terrible about what he had to do," said lawyer Robert Galantucci. ''He was ambushed and he had to protect himself and his lieutenant."
The facts of the shooting on Stag Hill, near the Ramapo Mountain State Forest, are in dispute.
Governor Jon S. Corzine and the state attorney general met Wednesday night with the Ramapoughs, and the governor promised a ''thorough and effective" investigation.
While tribal leaders said they were satisfied with the state's willingness to investigate, they said the killing was the culmination of decades of antitribe bias.