Ewing man dead after police-involved shooting on Wilson Street
A Ewing man was shot and killed Thursday during a police-involved shooting on Wilson Street.
Darnell Stafford, 31, was shot by officers after he fired gunshots through the windshield of their police cruiser. Stafford was then taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.
According to law enforcement, around 7 a.m. Thursday, Officers Robert Albanowski and Marlon Parrot were dispatched to the first block of Wilson Street after police received an emergency 911 call reporting a man with a gun who had just invaded a home. Police say the call was made by an adolescent who escaped from the house. When the officers arrived on-scene, they saw the suspect, later identified as Stafford, who then fired directly at them while they were sitting in their police vehicle. The officers then returned fire.
Three bullet holes could be seen in the windshield directly in front of the driver’s seat of the police cruiser as law enforcement processed the scene Thursday. Acting Police Director Ernest Parrey Jr. said the officers were in “imminent danger” at the time of the shooting.
“It was a very precarious position that they were in,” Parrey said. “I feel my officers are very fortunate.”
The officers were treated at the hospital for minor injuries and later released, Parrey said. Albanowski suffered cuts and lacerations to his hands and upper torso caused by glass shards, and Parrot was treated for an elevated blood pressure. Both officers were wearing their bullet-proof vest, Parrey said, but neither of them were struck by bullets. Parrey also said that incidents like this provide reason for law enforcement to consider bullet-proof windows on police vehicles.
“We’re always looking at different ways to make it safe for the officers,” Parrey said. “It’s a very harrowing experience to be shot at. You know in the back of your mind that this is something that could potentially happen, but it’s not something you’re looking forward to.”
A woman who was staying in a home on Dunham Street and would only identify herself as Michelle said she slept through the gunshots, but was awaken around 7:30 a.m. by the sound of someone banging on the front door.
“We were asleep, but a friend from down the street banged on our door,” Michelle said. “She said it sounded like the gunshots were coming through her house. This is really crazy, and it’s sad that we have to go through this.”
Several police officers and city officials stopped by the hospital Thursday morning to show support for Parrot and Albanowski. South Ward Councilman George Muschal said that when he first heard about the shootout Thursday morning, he immediately thought about the officers’ well-being.
“They could’ve been killed,” Muschal said. “They were very lucky to come out of this alive.”
Muschal served more than 40 years with the Trenton Police Department, and he said he has seen “some crazy things” throughout his career.
“I was involved in several shootouts, and I once had a gun shoved in my mouth,” Muschal said. “We take life for granted, but one minute you’re here and the next you’re dead.”
The Trentonian will include this justifiable killing in its yearly homicide count, and will differentiate between homicides and murders in its end of year review. But TPD and state police do not include justifiable police killings in yearly homicide statistics. This year’s homicide toll is now 31.
Albanowski is a 14-year veteran of the Trenton Police Department, and Parrot has been with the force 13 years.
The shooting is being investigated by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, TPD Internal Affairs, the New Jersey State Police Crime Scene Unit and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Police say Stafford has a criminal history and was well-known by law enforcement. But the area where the shooting occurred is not an “overly problematic part of town,” Parrey said.
“I can’t stress enough that (my officers) need to be extremely vigilant,” Parrey said. “There are folks out there that clearly have no respect for the value of human life. We have to be careful out there at all times, and the community (needs to be careful) as well. The police and the community need to partner and work together. That’s the only way we’re going to succeed.”