State investigating police shooting of man in his own home

A 76-year-old man was shot by New Jersey State Police troopers who were sent to the wrong address to investigate a 911 hang-up call.

After they got no response at the front door of the Centerton Road home, state troopers went around to the back, where they knocked on French doors and announced themselves.

Sarah, the family’s miniature Doberman, roused Margot Sykes, 80, who saw shadows moving outside on the deck and then woke her husband, Gerald Sykes.

The couple went into another room and saw figures on their property in the dark, so the husband retrieved his shotgun and started shooting. When Sykes fired a single shot, one of the troopers fired four rounds in return.

Gerald Sykes went back to his bedroom and placed phone calls to his daughter and 911.

Rich Kaser, a longtime family friend and attorney, said Sykes told him the 911 operator asked about guns in the house. “What are you worried about guns for? I am dying,” Kaser said Sykes told the operator.

The wounded suspect was taken to an area hospital for treatment and woke up with three bullets still lodged in his body. The Attorney General’s office is investigating since the matter is a police-involved shooting. That agency released the following statement:

 

Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team Investigates Shooting in Upper Deerfield Township Involving New Jersey State Troopers
UPPER DEERFIELD, N.J.The Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team is conducting an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a police-involved shooting overnight in Upper Deerfield Township, Cumberland County, involving the New Jersey State Police. A trooper exchanged gunfire with a resident, who was wounded in the exchange.

According to the preliminary investigation, police dispatchers received a 911 call from a cell phone shortly before 11:30 p.m. last night, but the caller hung up before contact was made. An attempt was made to trace the cell phone so that officers could check on the well-being of the caller, and the call appeared to have been placed from the address where the shooting occurred in the 300 block of Centerton Road in Upper Deerfield Township. That was later determined to be incorrect, but at the time, two state troopers from the State Police Bridgeton Station responded to the address to see if assistance was needed.

Two uniformed troopers arrived at the residence shortly before midnight in separate vehicles. They approached the single family residence, which is in a rural area and is set well back from the road. The troopers approached the home and knocked in an attempt to communicate with the occupants, who were later determined to be Gerald Sykes, 76, and his wife. The shooting occurred after the troopers approached a sliding glass door in the rear of the residence and knocked, shining flashlights into the home and announcing that they were responding to a 911 call. At that time, there was an exchange of gunfire through the sliding glass door in which one of the troopers fired four rounds from his service 9mm handgun and Gerald Sykes fired a single round from a shotgun. Mr. Sykes, who was struck by multiple rounds, retreated into the house. The occupants and their daughter, whom they contacted by phone, called 911, and 911 dispatchers facilitated Mr. Sykes coming out of his house so that he could receive medical treatment. He was airlifted to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where he was reported to be in critical but stable condition.

One of the troopers suffered a graze wound from the shotgun or from flying glass from the shotgun blast. Both troopers were treated at Inspira Medical Center in Vineland and later released.

No further details of the shooting are being released at this time because of the ongoing investigation.

The incident is being investigated by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team.  Under Attorney General Directives, the Shooting Response Team, made up of deputy attorneys general, detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice, and detectives of the State Police Major Crime Unit, are dispatched to the scene to handle investigations of shootings involving state troopers or officers employed by county prosecutors as detectives/investigators or members of county SWAT teams and task forces.

The Attorney General Directives governing investigations of police-involved shootings are located at the following links:

www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/directives/2006-5_SRT_OIS.pdf

www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/directives/dir2006_5.pdf


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