Gunman dead after standoff at Panera in Princeton


A man carrying a handgun who had been inside the Panera on Nassau Street in downtown Princeton since Tuesday morning was shot and killed in the late afternoon, law enforcement officials confirmed.

No one else was injured in the standoff that lasted about five hours.

Police tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the man. Police then shot the man at about 3 p.m. and he died at the scene. His covered body was taken out on a stretcher.

The identity of the man is being withheld pending notification of family members. No further
details of the shooting are being released at this time because the investigation is ongoing, law enforcement officials said.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team is investigating the shooting, said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office.

Aseltine refused to comment on whether the officer or officers involved in the shooting were local police officers or state troopers.

In New Jersey, all investigations into police deadly force incidents are governed by the New Jersey Attorney General’s independent prosecutor directive, which establishes procedures for conducting investigations and requires the attorney general to review all such investigations, the spokesman said. The directive provides that unless the undisputed facts indicate that the use of force was justified under the law, the circumstances of the incident must be presented to a grand jury composed of 23 civilians for independent review.

The Princeton Police Department would not comment on the incident and referred all questions about the standoff to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

Few details have been released about the man with the gun or how the standoff ended. One law enforcement source say the man with the gun was a veteran. Allegedly his Ford Focus, which had Pennsylvania plates, was found at another location in town. Some people said he was a regular at the Panera on Nassau Street. But none of these details officially have been confirmed by police yet.

Just before 10:30 a.m, the man entered the Panera with a handgun and made threats as customers and employees fled, many through the back door.

Police evacuated the area and barricaded Nassau Street between Witherspoon Street and Washington Road. The section of the Princeton University campus fronting that part of Nassau street was also off limits to pedestrians and students. Henry House and Scheide-Caldwell, the two campus buildings closest to the restaurant, were evacuated.

Local police, state police, the FBI and a SWAT team circled the building for several hours. Police tried to negotiate with the man, who was shouting and did not want to let anyone in the building.

Princeton Public Schools sheltered in place from about 10:30 a.m. until the school day was over. Several downtown businesses and organizations were in lockdown mode for most of the day, with everyone staying inside as a safety precaution.

Princeton University sent out an automated phone message to employees just after noon saying the school was on lockdown and that allegedly shots had been fired at the scene. A few minutes later, a second message went out saying the previous message about the lockdown and shots being fired was a mistake.

A SWAT Team member in downtown Princeton near the Panera. Photo submitted by reader Carla B.


    1. Thanks, edited. Having hard time updating because server so slow. At least it didn’t crash. Thanks again.

      1. Krystal, let’s grab some coffee and talk about your server. Or send me a note on who your hosting provider and your server specs. Perhaps there are ways to tune the existing server for better performance.

        1. Thanks will do. It did pretty well considering. But not being able to update things or fix things promptly was annoying. Sometimes the delay was so long I had added or deleted information or words from stories after trying to update, and the info. was then zapped. It all worked out in the end but it would have been nice to be able to fix or add to stories right away. We had more than 100,000 page views in a few hours. Former hosts we have used would have crashed after about 10 minutes!

  1. Little old Princeton had a heavy duty drama. Fortunately it was not a massacre with 4 or more people killed or injured.

  2. Good reporting here. A lot of rumors and conflicting accounts yesterday to sort out in real time.

  3. This whole thing was insane. Princeton public school kids were “sheltering in place” from 10:30 on. A nursery school in the area had the lights out and were making the kids sit in a dark room for hours. All this while it was KNOWN absolutely that the whole thing consisted of one guy sitting in Panera’s with a gun with NO hostages and surrounded by police with the roads closed off. So yeah, the police negotiated for five hours and then, you know, folks had to go home and all those kids had to get out of school and he was “shouting and did not want to let anybody in the building” so they shot him dead. A mentally disturbed veteran who was not in a position to harm anyone. But now Panera’s can get back to business and not lose anymore money. Good work everybody.

    1. While I don’t know the specifics of what happened because we weren’t there, he definitely was in a position to hurt someone with a gun and a big window.

      1. The street was closed off, the building was surrounded by police, and he sat there for 5 hours without firing a shot. Princeton is so “liberal” that it would like to be a “sanctuary city”, yet when any trouble that inconveniences them arises, they have no problem solving it with deadly force. See, for example, how they handle their deer problem and the animal control officer blasting two beavers to death a few years ago. The guy had a shotgun. That is a close range weapon. Google it if you know nothing about guns.

        1. I’m glad you know everything about what went on despite the road being closed to you. Just because he went 5 hours without firing a shot doesn’t mean he was going to go another 5 without doing so. Yes, he had a shotgun. He could have easily had other weapons on him that may have been unknown. He could have walked up to the window and pointed the gun at one of the officer. You have no idea what happened so withhold your judgements.

          How you managed to go from that to sanctuary cities to killing of deer and beavers is beyond me. And FYI, it was a state police officer that fired the shot, not a local cop.

          It’s a sad story, but if you go into a public restaurant brandishing a weapon like that and barricade yourself in, I’m sorry, you run the risk of getting shot and losing your life. He had 5 hours to walk out unharmed. He chose not to. I’m sure he was mentally unstable, but so was Nicholas Cruz.

          1. I go very easily from the one to the other because the fact is that Princeton is very “progressive” as long as they don’t feel threatened. Let some deer eat their hostas and they have no problem hiring a company to shoot bolts through their brains, which is what they do. Somebody not happy about two beavers in a park? No problem, the animal control officer will be right over to shoot them. I guarantee you most Princetonians are up in arms about “police brutality” whenever the cops kill somebody any place but Princeton. But see how much is said about this. Yeah — he chose not to walk out. He was a mentally disturbed veteran. Five hours patience is what you get for your service. Beyond that, Princeton doesn’t have any more time for you.

            1. Again, you have no idea of the details, so stop drawing conclusions. That’s what a rational person would do.

              1. Front page of the Town Topics: “Police quickly reported that the situation was contained within the restaurant with no threat to public safety.”

                1. Yeah, he was contained. I know, that’s because it was the police confronting the gunman, not you. He posed no threat to the public but he did pose a threat to the officers outside. You do realize the second he raises that gun, the situation has changed don’t you? I’m sure you’d not take any action knowing it’s a “close range weapon” if you were in that officer’s shoes. Stick to your day job and stop telling the police who kept your town safe that they did a bad job. If they didn’t respond fast enough to confine him to Panera, perhaps he could have went on a little rampage down Nassau and you’d have something else to complain about.

                  Your take on this is getting worse each time you post.

                  1. Now apparently you’re an expert on what went on. The police state that he was no threat to public safety yet you know that after 5 hours of a stand-off the guy with the shotgun posed a threat to the police. Like they were standing there in front of him such that if he raised the gun they would have to fire. Look, I don’t know what happened and I generally completely give the police the benefit if the doubt, but there is a very, very bad history of the police killing mentally ill people in situations in which a degree of patience would have produced a better outcome. All I’m saying is, nobody seems to care what happened in this situation because they’re perfectly happy to dismiss it as ‘the police killed some nut with a gun.” The nut with a gun was a veteran. Possibly suffering from mental illness caused by the position that his own country put him into. He posed no threat to public safety. The situation was controlled, the police had overwhelming fire power, they were able to sit there for 5 hours, yet they ended up killing him in the end anyway. I get that you don’t care. That’s my point.

                    1. That’s the entire point, you don’t know what happened. I do care. I was there this Sunday. As far as what happened, my coworker who is a retired police officer stated, if he has a gun, he is a threat to the police. You obviously have trouble distinguishing between the police and the public. There was no threat to the public because every building was evacuated and access to the street was completely cut off. This isn’t that difficult to understand.

                    2. You were arguing for sport. There was no shotgun, you were simply being contrary.

  4. So we are paying for 100 cops with rifles and armored vehicles to hang out for an afternoon but not for them to figure out how to disarm a mentally disturbed person without killing him.

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