Sheriff’s officer ‘justified’ in Centre St. gunfight against alleged killer Tyleeb Reese
The sheriff’s officer who engaged Tyleeb Reese in a gunfight during the deadly 35-hour standoff in South Trenton five months ago was justified in firing his service weapon and will not be charged, according to newly released findings by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
Reese, 35, of Trenton, is accused of shooting and killing a civilian passer-by during the early hours of the standoff and firing multiple shotgun blasts at law-enforcement officers, injuring three of them.
Authorities say Reese initiated the gunfight about 6:30 a.m. May 10 by firing two shotgun blasts at members of a regional U.S. Marshals fugitive task force. The officers were attempting to apprehend Reese on a fugitive arrest warrant because he had failed to register as a convicted sex offender.
As the officers entered Reese’s Centre Street residence and were advancing up the stairs to the second floor, Reese’s initial shotgun blasts struck the ballistic shield that was being held by a Mercer County Sheriff’s Officer identified as Officer 1, authorities said Friday. The force knocked three of the officers down the stairs and Officer 1 landed on the floor with the shield on top of him.
After hearing a third shotgun blast and seeing a cloud of plaster and dust, Officer 1 fired his Glock .40 caliber service handgun at least twice toward Reese, according to the state AG’s Office, which said no round hit Reese or anyone else.
Reese throughout the day and night fired additional shots at the officers and fired the kill shots that struck homicide victim Robert Powell Jr. in the torso, thigh and ankle, authorities said. Powell, 56, of Lamberton Street, was a loving grandfather. An autopsy determined that one of the fatal shots lacerated Powell’s lung and heart and that another shot hit an artery and shattered his thigh bone, according to information the Attorney General’s Office released on Friday.
The standoff ended about 5 p.m. May 11 with Reese surrendering peacefully. A judge eventually ordered Reese to be held without bail on pretrial detention and he has since been indicted on 18 counts, including one count of first-degree murder and seven counts of first-degree attempted murder.
The Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team investigated the deadly incident and determined that Officer 1 was the only officer who discharged a gun during the incident. The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice further determined the officer’s use of force was justified under the law, so the state never pursued grand jury charges against the officer, authorities announced on Friday.
Elie Honig of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice “concluded that the officer who fired on Reese used an acceptable level of force,” the AG’s Office said Friday in a press release. “The facts and circumstances reasonably led the officer to believe his actions were immediately necessary to protect himself and his fellow officers. An officer may use deadly force in New Jersey when the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.”
The three officers injured during the standoff received treatment at Capital Health Regional Medical Center for graze wounds and contusions.
The newly released findings by the state Attorney General’s Office confirms much of the previously reported details about the deadly incident while revealing new details on some of the alleged actions Reese took while he was barricading himself inside his house on the 300 block of Centre Street.
“After Reese knocked a hole in an upstairs party wall between his townhome and the adjacent home, two state troopers were deployed to insert a camera and robot into Reese’s home,” the AG’s Office said Friday. “They were in a second-floor bathroom of the adjacent home, carrying ballistic shields, when Reese allegedly fired two shotgun blasts through the bathroom door, striking the shield of one of the troopers. The troopers were not injured and withdrew.”
Reese faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted on first-degree murder.