BLACKWOOD, N.J. – A New Jersey state employee arrested in a domestic-violence incident Friday disarmed a Gloucester Township police officer and fired at two superior officers before dying in a barrage of bullets in the department’s headquarters in Blackwood, authorities said.
Sgts. Kevin Thyne and James Garber returned fire after Eddie Jones III, 39, of Willingboro, a civilian communications operator with the Department of Corrections, fired with the .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun issued to Officer Ruth Burns, Chief Harry Earle said.
Burns was processing Jones around 5:30 a.m. His handcuffs had been removed, according to standard procedure, while officers stood near the doorway, Earle said.
The incident “happened within seconds,” Earle said. “He suddenly attacked the officer, tackling her to the ground, striking her upon her head, and removing her department-issued firearm from her holster.”
Thyne, an eight-year veteran, and Burns, on the force for a year, were treated at Cooper University Hospital in Camden.
Burns had a gunshot wound to a foot. A bullet hit Thyne’s duty belt, which lacerated his stomach. He also was grazed in the chin.
Garber, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, was shot several times, at least once in the chest and in the stomach. He also was grazed in the head and underwent surgery at Cooper, where he was in stable condition Friday. Garber is a 13-year member of the force.
Jones was declared dead at the scene.
“This morning, the reality of a cruel world fell upon our doorsteps,” Mayor Dave Mayer said. “Today our community experienced an unprovoked violent act against those who serve and protect the residents of Gloucester Township.”
Earle hailed his officers, saying they “responded with quick and decisive action.”
Earle said he could not say what Burns was doing when Jones disarmed her. Other officers “were in very close distance” outside the processing room, which is roughly 10 feet by 12 feet, he said.
Earle also could not say whether Jones fired all of the 13 rounds in Burns’ weapon.
The officers were placed on administrative leave, as is standard procedure involving police-related shootings.
Deirdre Fedkenheuer, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said Jones was employed at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility in Chesterfield. He had been a department employee since 1997.