Standoff in Trenton leaves bystander dead, 3 officers injured
A city man with a history of sexual assault snapped when he saw police at his doorstep, leading to a standoff that left an innocent bystander dead.
As of press time Wednesday night, the suspect — identified as 35-year-old Tyleeb Reese — was still barricaded in a Centre Street home with police surrounding the building.
Officials say members of the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force served a sexual assault warrant at Reese’s home in the 300 block of Centre Street around 6:45 a.m. Police say officers entered the home and were engaged in gunfire by the suspect. Law enforcement then retreated while ducking fire and Reese retreated back into the house, where he remained barricaded until at least 10 p.m. Wednesday.
While Reese was in the house he exchanged gunfire with police and shot and killed an innocent bystander who was crawling to a safe place for cover behind a car near the cops. Officials have identified Robert Powell Jr., age 56, of Lamberton Street.
Three Mercer County Sheriff’s Officers were also struck by gunfire. All three officers were treated and released after being treated for injuries. Witnesses at the scene said Reese used a shotgun, or possibly a long gun, but police would not confirm that detail.
It’s unclear whether Reese was also hit by gunfire during the shootout.
The Centre Street home where the shooting happened is owned by Reese’s relatives, property records show.
Officials actively tried to negotiate with Reese throughout the day. Police allowed several of Reese’s relatives to call him in an attempt to negotiate a peaceful surrender. Police also used a bullhorn on several occasions trying to convince him to exit the house.
Sources said Resse wanted to come out of the house but was afraid he’s was going to be shot.
Police do not know if there is anyone in the house with Reese, or the layout of the property, which is why they did not breach the home immediately.
Police used a sniper to watch Reese through a window.
Officials confirmed the identity of the deceased victim early Thursday morning, who lied in the middle of the street at the corner of Federal and Centre until 1:20 p.m., when police removed his body using a SWAT vehicle as cover.
“This whole street is a powder keg. There’s always something going on in these alleys and back streets,” a witness said.
Around 8:30 a.m., police knocked on doors and forced residents of the 400 block of Centre Street to evacuate their homes. Meanwhile, some residents in the 300 block remained trapped inside their house until just before dark when cops helped some of them exit their property safely.
During the day, SWAT team members were seen running through the streets with rifles looking for a safe vantage point. At one point, a couple streets over, a school bus picked up kids, prompting residents to question why schools in the area were not shut down.
Police tossed tear gas into Reese’s home twice, but it was not clear if the gas had any impact on him.
After visiting the scene Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Eric Jackson described the standoff as an “unfortunate scenario for all involved.”
“I am pleased that our law enforcement community, from the U.S. Marshals Office, to the Sheriff’s Office, Prosecutor’s Office and Trenton PD, are working collectively to try to resolve this as best they can given the circumstances that confront them,” the mayor said. “So I’m hopeful for the best possible outcome that can happen at this point.”
Neighbors who were sitting on their stoops near the crime scene said Reese was a “good guy” who just snapped.
“He’s very friendly and has a good character,” said one woman, who just got off the phone with the suspect’s ex-girlfriend. “We’re just as shocked as everyone else.”
Neighbors know Reese by his nickname “T” and said he just broke up with his girlfriend a few weeks ago.
“A lot is probably going on in his head stemming from the breakup,” one acquaintance said. “But I don’t think that would be a reason to do all this. He doesn’t seem like the type of person to do this over a girl. It has to be something bigger.”
Reese has a criminal record, which includes convictions of criminal sexual contact, failure to register on Megan’s Law and resisting arrest.
Standoffs in Trenton are nothing new.
The last deadly standoff occurred four years ago.
In May 2013, 38-year-old Gerald Murphy was shot and killed by police during a 37-hour standoff in a Grand Street home after he killed his girlfriend, her 13-year-old son, and held the woman’s three other children hostage at gunpoint.
It was a long ordeal that was carried out over three days and gained national media attention after police discovered the mother’s decomposed body in the home during a welfare check. When Murphy pulled a gun, officers retreated from the house and began the long standoff.
Police eventually raided the home following a loud explosion in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, May 12 and shot Murphy dead.
The affair forced neighbors out of their homes and kept an entire city on edge.
Then on Christmas Eve in 2013, another standoff occurred inside an apartment on the 200 block of Coolidge Avenue involving a hostage situation.
Kevin Robinson eventually surrendered peacefully four hours later after he held his 19-year-old daughter and her two children captive at gunpoint.
Dating back to 2013, there have been at least one police-involved shooting in the capital city each year, including the Murphy standoff.
In August 2013, Eric McNeil, 23, was justifiably shot and killed by police after he ambushed two detectives as they were escorting a domestic violence victim back to her Hobart Avenue home.
In November 2014, 31-year-old Darnell Stafford was shot and killed by cops after he fired gunshots through the windshield of their police cruiser on Wilson Street.
The following year, police shot 23-year-old Jeremiah Sanchez in the neck and arm after he allegedly hit an officer with his car while fleeing from the first block of Chestnut Avenue. Sanchez survived the shooting.
In August 2016, 34-year-old Alfred Toe was shot and killed by an off-duty Trenton police officer after he allegedly tried to wrestle a handgun away from the cop.