Fatal Trenton standoff ends with surrender

Tyleeb Reese surrenders to police after a 35-hour standoff in Trenton. (submitted photo)

Tyleeb Reese surrenders to police after a 35-hour standoff in Trenton. (submitted photo)

The standoff that lasted close to 35 hours in Trenton has ended peacefully.

Trenton standoff suspect Tyleeb Reese surrendered to police just after 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Reese, the suspected triggerman, engaged U.S. Marshals in a gunfight that left a civilian dead and three officers wounded. Reese then retreated to his family’s home on the 300 block of Centre Street and barricaded himself inside as police attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution the past two days.

“Go Tyleeb!” people shouted when a shirtless Reese exited his home about 5 p.m. Thursday with his hands on his head.

Earlier in the day, with 35-year-old Tyleeb Reese still holed up inside the house and a large police presence surrounding the neighborhood, one resident urged police to hurry up and end the standoff, saying, “They are taking too long.”

The standoff began about 6:45 a.m. Wednesday when members of a U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force served a sexual assault warrant at Reese’s home on the 300 block of Centre Street. Police say officers entered the home and were engaged in gunfire by the suspect.

While Reese was in the house he allegedly 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 the deceased victim as Robert Powell Jr., 56, of Lamberton Street.

“He was an honest guy but was just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” city man Angel Rivera, 40, said Thursday morning of Powell. Rivera said he did not know Powell too well but knew him to be a gentleman who “helped out a lot” in the neighborhood.

Police guard the body of a homicide victim as the suspect is barricaded inside of a home on the 300 block of Centre St. in Trenton. (Penny Ray — The Trentonian)

Police guard the body of a homicide victim as the suspect is barricaded inside of a home on the 300 block of Centre St. in Trenton. (Penny Ray — The Trentonian)

Three Mercer County Sheriff’s Officers were also struck by gunfire in the gunfight with the suspect. 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.

At a press briefing about 11 a.m. Thursday, Capt. Brian Polite of the New Jersey State Police said tactical assets personnel were engaged in ongoing negotiations with Reese.

Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson said the city on Wednesday served more than 450 meals to residents in the South Trenton neighborhood and said the city’s senior center on South Broad Street was being used as a shelter site for any residents who had to evacuate their homes as a result of the standoff.

“We are hoping to bring this matter to a resolve as quickly and as effectively as we can,” Jackson said. “I can assure you, though, that law-enforcement assets of all that are involved have been working tirelessly and working with professionalism to resolve this matter, and I urge the residents of our city to stay calm to continue to give the law-enforcement officers and agencies the opportunity to do their job to bring a peaceful resolution to this matter.”

Police scanners reported that shots were fired Wednesday night and that the barricaded suspect may have suffered a gunshot wound to the leg.

Reese’s father is a retired New Jersey state corrections officer, according to his mother Jeannette Bennett, who said she did not know her son had a firearm in his possession.

Action intensifies

During Day 2 of the standoff, several patrons bought sandwiches from the La Caribena Grocery store at 418 Centre St. late Thursday morning. They had to enter the establishment from the rear.

“I feel bad,” La Caribena owner Sergio Azcona said, “because I’m losing money. I have to pay money, taxes and everything. It’s crazy.”

At one point during the standoff, a police officer entered the La Caribena business Thursday morning and asked Azcona if he could use the restroom. The business owner happily obliged.

Among the few people who patronized the business on Thursday was Angel Rivera, who bought a cheesesteak. He said his girlfriend works with Reese’s mother at a welfare office and said the talk of the workplace was that Reese told his mom he would not surrender to police.

“He’s not going back to jail. That’s what his exact words were,” Rivera said. Calling the incident “sad,” Rivera said he believed that Reese may have mental health issues.

Mayor Jackson during the standoff said he was in contact with the suspect’s mother and said “she’s in good spirits as best as she can be at this time.”

Reese has a history of sexual assault, but area residents on Thursday continued to describe him as “a good guy.”

“I’m glad they didn’t kill him,” said Reese’s next-door neighbor Nate Myers. “He’s a good dude. I don’t know where this came from.”

Myers said police about 10:45 p.m. Wednesday entered into his home and ordered him and his three children to evacuate. “I thought that was stupid and disrespectful,” he said, adding his family had a place to stay and did not need to seek shelter at the city’s senior center on South Broad Street. “I’m ready to go home now,” Myers said shortly after the standoff came to a peaceful resolution.

Notably absent from the scene was Trenton Police Director Ernest Parrey Jr., who was participating in the annual Police Unity Tour as he has in the last two years.

Trenton Police Detective Lt. Stephen Varn confirmed Parrey’s participation in the unity tour and said the police director “is in continuous contact with the command staff of the department and receiving constant updates of not only the incident on Centre Street but also other department matters.”

The primary purpose of the Police Unity Tour is to raise awareness of law-enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. The secondary purpose is to raise funds for the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum, according to the unity tour’s website.

The 2017 ride left North Jersey on Tuesday and was scheduled to arrive in Washington, D.C., on Friday and conclude over the weekend with a candlelight vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

Investigation ongoing

Minutes after Reese surrendered on Thursday, New Jersey State Police spokesman Lawrence Peele gave a brief press statement saying, “Shortly after 5 p.m. tonight, the suspect Tyleeb Reese surrendered peacefully, exited the residence and was taken into custody without incident. There were no injuries to the suspect or to law enforcement.”

Peele said the police investigation remains ongoing but declined to say anything more, saying, “We will have more information at a later time.”

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