Planet Princeton

Seven months after Panera shooting, investigation still not finished

Seven months after a man was shot and killed by state police during a standoff at the Panera on Nassau Street, an investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office is still incomplete.

A spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General’s office said the investigation is still ongoing and that a statement will be released when the investigation is completed.

On March 20, state troopers fatally shot Scott Mielentz, 56, of Lawrenceville after an almost  five-hour standoff. Mielentz was brandishing what people thought was a handgun. It was actually a BB gun.

Law enforcement officers from the New Jersey State Police, FBI and Princeton Police Department negotiated with Mielentz for more than two hours. After he raised a black pistol and pointed it in the direction of officers, two members of the New Jersey State Police Technical Emergency and Mission Specialists Unit, armed with M4 rifles, fired at him, striking him in the head and upper torso. Mielentz was pronounced dead at the scene. The pistol in his hand was later determined to be a black Crosman PFM BB Pistol.

The investigation is being handled by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team. In April, the state released some records 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.

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 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 provides that unless the undisputed facts indicate 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 an 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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