State troopers in New Jersey mistakenly entered the wrong house and shot its owner after receiving a confusing 911 call, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s office
The incident occurred on Friday night when state troopers responding to a 911 call in Upper Deerfield Township, Cumberland County, entered 76-year-old Gerard Sykes’ house and, seeing that he had a shotgun in his hand, shot him. Sykes, who thought the officers were intruders, had picked up the gun to defend himself, the police said. Although critically injured after the tragic incident, Sykes is currently stable and is recuperating in a nearby hospital.
According to Fox29, the tragic incident ensued after somebody placed a 911 call from a cellphone near Sykes’ home on Centerton Road. While the details of the call remain unclear at this point, the caller apparently hung up without providing the dispatcher with an address.
The state troopers, unable to detect the precise location of the caller, believed that the call had come from Sykes’ house. When they reached the home Friday some time around midnight and knocked on the door, they received no response. So the two uninformed state troopers approached the home’s back deck and shined flashlights into the house. It was now that they saw Sykes in the living room.
Sykes, who lives with his 80-year-old wife, assumed robbers had arrived at this odd hour since the troopers were not wearing uniforms. The elderly man picked up his shotgun in order to defend himself, and in the chaos that followed, got shot by a state trooper, a spokesperson for the state attorney’s office said.
“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.”
It is not yet clear who among Sykes and the responding officers began shooting first, but attorney Rich Kaser suggested Sykes fired a blast from his shotgun after one of the troopers had fired at least three times.
Later, still unsure if the call had come from Sykes’ house, the state troopers placed him in handcuffs while they inspected the house.
One of the state troopers also received minor injuries. A glass shard seems to have grazed him after Sykes fired the shot, according to New York Daily News.
Diana LaFalce, who is Gerard Sykes’ step-daughter, said that the officers may have started shooting through the sliding glass door first, and fearing that his life might be in danger, Sykes may have fired a shot in response. However, enough evidence has not been collected to suggest that it is exactly what might have transpired.
LaFalce said that she received a phone call from her mother who told her about the ghastly incident. Her mother found her husband lying blood-soaked on the floor of the living room, and not knowing exactly what had led to the shots being fired, she began calling 911.
Her husband was soon carried to the Cooper hospital nearby, where the injured man still remains.
The state Attorney General’s Office released a statement saying that the case remains under investigation, and no charges have been pressed against either the state troopers responding to the call or Gerard Sykes himself.
This is not the first time that an elderly man has been shot by officers responding to the wrong house in recent months. Just last month, a Georgia police officer shot William Powell, 63, after mistaking his house as the location for a crime. Powell also had a gun in his hand when the police officers arrived, according to ABC News.
But while the Georgia man was not fortunate enough to survive after the fatal incident, at least Gerard Sykes did not have to meet the same fate.
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