NJ attorney general releases footage of fatal shooting by state police at Princeton Panera


The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office Monday released surveillance footage taken at the Princeton Panera on March 20 showing state troopers fatally shooting Scott Mielentz, 56, of Lawrenceville after a five-hour standoff. Mielentz was brandishing what people thought was a handgun. It was actually a BB gun.

The shooting remains under investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team. Some records were released today in response to requests under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act and common law. The records include footage from Panera’s surveillance system, 911 recordings, Computer-Aided Dispatch reports, and information about the weapons involved.

The CAD reports and 911 recordings include a 911 call received by the Princeton Police Department at 10:28 a.m. from a man reporting “There’s a guy with a gun at Panera.”

For more than two hours, law enforcement officers from the New Jersey State Police, FBI and Princeton Police Department negotiated with Mielentz, who was holding a black pistol in his hand. At approximately 2:54 p.m., two members of the New Jersey State Police Technical Emergency and Mission Specialists Unit, armed with M4 rifles, fired at Mielentz, striking him in the head and upper torso.

The video shows that immediately prior to the fatal shooting, Mielentz, who had been holding the pistol near his waist in his right hand, raised the pistol and pointed it in the direction of the officers, who were standing behind a counter area. Mielentz was pronounced dead at the scene. The pistol in Mielentz’s hand was later determined to be a black Crosman PFM BB Pistol. Most news outlets had erroneously reported on the day of the standoff that Mielentz had brought a rifle or semi-automatic rifle at the Panera.

In New Jersey, all investigations of police deadly force incidents are governed by the Attorney General’s Independent Prosecutor Directive, issued in 2006 and strengthened in 2015, which establishes strict procedures for conducting such investigations. It requires the Attorney General to review all deadly force investigations, and in some cases conduct them as well. The directive further provides that unless the undisputed facts indicate the use of force was justified under the law, the circumstances of the incident must ultimately be presented to a grand jury, composed of 23 civilians, for its independent review.


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.


  1. Calling you “unprincipled cop lover” is not an attack, it’s who you are. And no surprise in seeing your kind here. This particular news outlet has been covering the Mielentz story based exclusively on official statements. No attempt was undertaken to investigate this independently, as would be expected from a proper journalist.

  2. This comment adds nothing. Typical ad hominem attack when unable to provided a reasoned response.

  3. Sir. You stated a “superior show of force” is “the only way police know how to deal with anything.” Only way? All police? No, I’m not a policeman or related to one. Just call it as I see it and you are not objective.

  4. It’s funny you accuse me of being biased as you keep using law enforcement vernacular (“superior show of force”, “drawing their sidearms”). You’re obviously a LEO or related to one. Using a gun is not the only superior show of force. It’s a pretty regular occurrence to see law enforcement intimidating and abusing people in an effort to prove their superiority. On today’s front page alone we’ve got a cop doing a body cavity search on a guy on the side of the road because he smelled pot, a cop punching a 13-year old girl who was already being held down to the ground, and a cop taunting a guy who was handcuffed as he pepper sprayed him. That’s just one day in NJ. The only thing patently absurd is to think that the vast majority of law enforcement officers have any idea how to diffuse a situation and they certainly don’t know how to deal with the mentally ill. All they know how to do is escalate and prove they are superior.

  5. Really? Since many policemen and women go their entire careers without ever drawing their sidearms, I don’t think a “superior show of force” is “the only way police know how to deal with anything.” Your statement is patently absurd. You are clearly biased.

  6. He thought he was going to be killed. Don’t you get it? This was a suicide-by-cop and the police, who are supposed to protect and serve, helped him commit suicide. The “superior show of force” seems to be the only way police know how to deal with anything. I guess they showed him!

  7. Oh please. What did he “think was going to happen” when he raised his gun at armed policemen? If anything, by entering the restaurant with a superior show of force, one would think he would have dropped his weapon. Let’s put you on video tape at your job and have someone who knows nothing about what you do do a running commentary.

  8. “What are you supposed to do when a person aims a gun at you” That’s always the excuse. How about when you have a mentally unstable person in a place, with no hostages, where he can only hurt himself, not charge in there? Same thing happened in South Brunswick several years ago. A guy was in his house, by himself, with a sword. Police got tired of waiting and stormed in there and “had to kill him”.

  9. He was in the place by himself. No reason to storm in there except for the fact that they got tired of waiting for him. He couldn’t have pointed the gun at them if they didn’t go storming into where he was holed up. What did they think was going to happen.

  10. A tragedy all around for Mielentz, his family and for the 2 officers who had to shoot him. What are you supposed to do when a person aims a gun at you and there’s no way to tell that it was a mere BB gun? I have no answers on this one, I’m sure the police took no pleasure in shooting this man and then finding out he only had a BB gun. It was suicide by police by all appearances. Could they have used less lethal alternatives?

  11. Clearly a use of excessive force. The police were armed with M-4s – assault rifles – and were behind cover inside the building 20 ft away from the suspect. There was no reason to shoot him in the first place, and with weapons more accurate than handguns, they easily could have disabled him with shots to his legs. Better yet, they should have tossed a flash-bang or smoke grenade to disorient the suspect and taken him alive. We now know that the suspect’s weapon was a BB gun, not a bullet-firing gun, and BB pistols are intended to look like real guns (see, for example, https://www.academy.com/shop/pdp/crosman-vigilante-177-pellet-and-bb-air-pistol). The police did not know that then, of course, but they had none-lethal alternatives. They should not have shot to kill.

  12. A well played suicide by cop. He smokes a cigarette, takes a deep breath and unsteadily rises his gun. Its unfortunate our law enforcement has all the power and thoughtfulness of a speeding train.

Please share your thoughts on this story.

%d bloggers like this: