Findings of October 16, 2016 Non-Fatal Toms River Police Officer Involved Shooting Investigation
In compliance with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive 2006-5 (July 28, 2015) on the uniform statewide procedures and best practices for conducting police officer use-of-force investigations, this public statement is being issued regarding the October 16, 2016, Toms River Township Police Officer involved shooting of Russell Bauer.
The Office of the Attorney General agrees with the findings of Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato that the undisputed facts of this case establish that the use of deadly force by the police officer was legally justified. The Attorney General also agrees that there are no material facts in dispute with regard to the officers’ use of force. As a result, presentation to the Grand Jury is not warranted.
The facts regarding the use of force are as follows: On October 16, 2016, at 6:42 P.M., the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department 911 Communications center received a phone call from a man identified as “Russ”. Sunset on that day was at 6:15 P.M. “Russ” reported that a man dressed in a black tee- shirt, hat, blue jeans and boots was walking in the area of Christian Court with a gun. Three Toms River police officers responded in their marked police vehicles. The officers were wearing police uniforms with a badge visible on their chest and each were carrying department issued firearms. The officers had been qualified with those firearms.
The officers encountered a man meeting the physical description provided by the 911 caller on Sand Creek Lane near the intersection of Christian Court. The man had his right hand behind his back and was standing in an assertive stance. The Officers commanded him to show his hands and he refused. One of the officers was heard yelling, “Let me see your hands,” on the MVR recording retrieved from the police cruiser. The man quickly swung his right hand from behind his back and pointed a black object in the direction of the officers. Believing it was a gun, two officers discharged their weapons and hit the man twice.
The man, now identified as Russell Bauer, was transported by ambulance to Jersey Shore Medical Center for treatment of his injuries. During transport, Bauer informed medics and two other Toms River officers that he walked to the area from his motel and called 911 with the plan of him being shot and killed by a police officer.
OCPO Detectives interviewed Bauer at Jersey Shore Medical Center after he was treated and in stable condition. Bauer reported that he left his residence in Levittown, Pennsylvania, about two and a half weeks before the incident, met a woman that he had been communicating with online, and then moved in with her at a Seaside Heights motel. The relationship did not work out, so he left the motel, became homeless for a time and then wound up at the Red Carpet Inn in Toms River.
Bauer explained the he wanted to die and he came up with two ways to do it. The first option was through an intentional overdose of heroin. However, he did not have any money to buy the heroin. The second option was “suicide by cop” and he decided to “end it” that way. Bauer walked approximately 6.2 miles from the Red Carpet Inn to the intersection of Sand Creek Lane and Christian Court because that is where his ex-girlfriend lived.
Bauer stated that he called the police when he got there. He told the 911 operator that there was a man on Christian Court with a gun and provided his own description. He did not have a gun, but rather a black television remote that he took from the Red Carpet Inn, a fact later corroborated by the OCPO detectives.
At that point in the evening, it was dark out and Bauer saw the police approach. He indicated that he put his right hand behind back, as if he was going to draw a weapon, and then started backing up. When the police officers exited their vehicles, they drew their weapons, and told Bauer to show them his hands. Bauer claimed to be at peace with the situation and was smoking a cigarette. Bauer then took a few steps toward the officers, drew his right arm quickly from behind his back, and pointed the black television remote at the officers. The officers then shot him.
On November 22, 2016, Bauer was charged with N.J.S.A. 2C:33-3A(2) for creating a false public alarm and was lodged in the Ocean County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail. On March 27, 2017, Bauer pled guilty to an Accusation alleging False Public Alarm in the Third Degree. The State recommended a mental health evaluation and 180 days in the Ocean County Jail as a condition of probation. On June 9, 2017, Bauer was sentenced to two years of probation with mental health counseling and given credit for 200 days of time served in the Ocean County Jail.
The Office of the Attorney General and Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato are satisfied that the undisputed facts establish that the Toms River Township police officers used the appropriate force necessary to protect their lives and that they were legally justified in doing so. This investigation was conducted consistent with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Directive 2006-5 (July 28, 2015) regarding the uniform statewide procedures and best practices for conducting police officer use-of-force investigations.
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