No indictment for SWAT officer who shot Little Egg Harbor man in 2016
The Ocean County SWAT officer who shot and killed a retired New York City police officer in Little Egg Harbor, during what they described as a tense armed standoff in July 2016, will face no criminal charges.
A state grand jury returned a decision of no true bill in connection with he officer's role in the death of Patrick Fennell, 57.
The vote means that the panel declined to pursue an indictment, according to the office of New Jersey Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino..
Jurors voted after hearing and viewing testimony and evidence presented by the AG's Shooting Response Team, involving investigators of the Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey State Police Major Crime Unit.
Police officers in New Jersey are permitted to use deadly force when one reasonably believes it's immediately necessary to protect himself/herself, or another person, from serious bodily harm or death.
Fennell served with the NYPD for 20 years, retiring in 2001. Posts found on Facebook at the time indicated that he had been a detective lieutenant, and that he had been decorated for his response to two separate incidents.
Fennell, who police said was armed with a .22-caliber revolver, was shot in a patch of woods behind his Sycamore Drive house on July 16, 2016, just after 10:30 PM.
It followed three hours of negotiations and what investigators said was a life-threatening confrontation when Fennell allegedly pointed the gun at SWAT team members.
According to authorities, Fennell's wife called 911 at 6:52 PM, telling the operator that her husband was inebriated, that she heard gunshots in their basement, and that she was "really scared."
She had confronted him in the basement prior to that point, took loose bullets while he loaded the revolver, and was pushed away, authorities said.
He retreated to the woods by the time Little Egg Harbor police arrived, clad in a swimsuit, camouflage hat and boots on the wrong feet, investigators said.
The County Regional SWAT Team was arrived between 7:30 and 8 PM, illuminating the darkening area with generator lights, flashlights, and rifle-mounted lights, and using night vision and thermal imaging to keep track of Fennell, authorities said, adding that they opted to close in when negotiators failed to establish contact.
Investigators said that Fennell refused to communicate and cooperate. The officer who fired was armed with a rifle, at an estimated distance of 20 to 25 yards. Several officers reported seeing Fennell raise the gun, with the barrel pointed up.
Ordered to drop the revolver and show his hands, Fennell instead pointed it at the officers facing him. Several officers on site reported hearing Fennell utter an antagonistic remark as he pointed the weapon.
The officer who opened fire unloaded eight rounds in all, authorities said. He reported that Fennell said, "Don't come any closer. This is going to be a bad day."
Fennell was pronounce dead at the scene, with chest, right arm and hip wounds, the revolver lying between his legs. The front of the revolver's chamber exhibited damage from a bullet, that officers said was consistent with the direction in which it was pointed.
Investigators said they found two .22-caliber casings fired from the revolver in Fennell's basement.
Toxicology tests placed Fennell's blood alcohol level between 0.11 and 0.12 percent. The threshold for intoxication in New Jersey is 0.08 percent.