Shooting of NJ officer prompts manhunt
Officer Gerald Veneziano is in critical but stable condition
FAIRFIELD, N.J. — Authorities said today they don’t have a partial license plate on the vehicle that two suspects fled in after shooting an off-duty Fairfield police officer Saturday night.They also said that the suspects may have been driving a black Dodge Nitro, not a Magnum as originally reported.
The injured officer, Gerald Veneziano, 26, remains in critical but stable condition at University Hospital in Newark, Charlotte Smith, Essex County executive assistant prosecutor, said this morning.
Veneziano was on his way to work Saturday around 6:15 p.m., when he used his cell phone to call a fellow officer, seeking to run a license plate on the Dodge, outside 300 Fairfield Road, authorities said. But that officer “wasn’t able to do so because he was in the midst of an emergency call,” Essex County Acting Prosecutor Robert Laurino said Sunday afternoon in a press conference about the shooting. Fairfield Deputy Chief Steven Gutkin also confirmed today that Veneziano never gave the other officer a plate number.
Minutes later, the three-year police veteran was shot in his abdomen and torso several times, and returned fire. The prosecutor’s office is leading the investigation, overseeing a multi-agency task force. Investigators are still going through the area around 300 Fairfield Road, searching for any remaining physical evidence, Smith said. Detailing the calamitous encounter, acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino today said several law enforcement agencies have formed a task force and launched a massive manhunt to find the people who shot Veneziano. The officer remained hospitalized tonight in critical but stable condition at University Hospital in Newark.
"The tragic events that have unfolded ... show how unpredictable and how dangerous it is to be a police officer in this country,’’ the prosecutor said during a press conference at Fairfield town hall.
Authorities said $35,000 in rewards are being offered for information leading to the arrest and convictions of those who shot Veneziano. Those with information are asked to call Fairfield police at (973) 227-1400.