Grand jury clears tactical team officer in death of armed South Brunswick man in standoff

BEYOND BERGEN: An Old Bridge police officer who shot and killed a man who attacked him during a tactical team entry during an armed standoff in late 2013 was cleared of any wrongdoing by a state grand jury, Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced this afternoon.

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The state grand jury concluded its deliberations late yesterday by declining to indict the officer “after hearing extensive testimony and evidence” from Hoffman’s Shooting Response Team, made up of investigators from the Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey State Police Major Crime Unit, the attorney general said.

“An officer may use deadly force in New Jersey when the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm,” Hoffman noted.

Andrew Murnieks, 28, was shot inside his South Brunswick house on Nov. 20, 2013 following an incident that began four hours earlier when South Brunswick police officers “were dispatched to the house on a report of an emotionally disturbed person,” the attorney general said.

“Upon arrival, Murnieks’ mother told the officers that her son was schizophrenic and was off his medications,” Hoffman said. “Township police had responded to prior incidents at the house in which Murnieks behaved violently.

“The investigation revealed that when the officers attempted to speak to Murnieks at the front door, he walked away at first, but then turned and charged at them with a large blade held over his head,” he added. “The officers retreated and alerted the Middlesex County Special Operations Response Team.”

Hoffman continued:

“Murnieks shut the door but could be seen running through the house and waving the blade. He opened the front door and a rear sliding door several times to yell and wave the weapon. Murnieks yelled repeatedly that he was going to kill the officers.

“The Middlesex County Special Operations Response Team arrived and took command. They were advised that Murnieks had access to a machete, a knife and a hammer.

“A crisis negotiator made repeated efforts over the next several hours to resolve the situation. When those negotiations broke down and Murnieks appeared to be barricading the doorway, the SWAT team forced entry into the house.

“The investigation revealed that Murnieks attacked the first officer who entered the house, striking him multiple times in the head and face with a heavy metal wrench. He also attempted to grab the officer’s handgun.

“The officer, a member of the Old Bridge Police Department, fired one round from his service weapon that struck Murnieks in the chest, fatally wounding him.

“Murnieks was treated at the scene by paramedics and was transported to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where he was pronounced dead at 11:35 p.m.

“The officer was taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries to his jaw and head,” Hoffman said.




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