Planet Princeton

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.

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