Planet Princeton

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.

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Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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