By Wayne Parry
LAKEWOOD, N.J. — A gunman opened fire early Thursday on a SWAT team that burst into a home during a drug and gun raid, wounding four officers while spraying bullets from atop a staircase, authorities said. One officer was critically wounded.
Lakewood Patrolman Jonathan Wilson was shot in the face during the raid, and was in critical but stable condition at a local hospital. Authorities said they were cautiously optimistic he would survive despite being grievously wounded.
"He is in good spirits, and he's communicating," said Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford.
Lt. Greg Meyer was shot in the foot, and was in good condition at the hospital with bone injuries.
Two other Lakewood officers, Sgt. Louis Sasso and Patrolman Leonard Nieves Sr. were shot in their bulletproof vests, sustaining only minor injuries despite being struck in the chest. They were treated and released from the hospital.
The suspect, Jamie Gonzalez, 39, was in critical condition after suffering numerous gunshot wounds as police returned fire, Ford said.
A second person who was inside the house when the shooting erupted also was in custody, but had not been charged as of Thursday morning. First Assistant Prosecutor Ronald DeLigny said it does not appear the second person was involved in the shooting, but may be implicated in the underlying guns and drugs case that brought the multi-agency task force to the house in the first place.
At 2:25 a.m., the task force consisting of officers from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, New Jersey State Police, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office and Lakewood police executed a "no-knock" search warrant at the single family home.
As soon as they got inside, a suspect identified as Gonzalez opened fire on them from atop a staircase, striking the four officers,authorities said.
Police returned fire and shot Gonzalez several times. It was not immediately clear how many shots were fired.
Authorities were still searching the house Thursday morning for evidence in the shooting case, as well as the gun and drugs case.
Ford would not characterize the underlying drug and weapons case other than to say it was "big enough to attract the attention of the task force."
The shooting comes more than two months after Jersey City police Det. Marc DiNardo was shot in the face storming an apartment where two armed robbery suspects were holed up. Four other officers were wounded in the gun battle and the suspects were killed.
DiNardo was taken off life support and pronounced dead one day before his 38th birthday.
Lakewood was once known as the resort in the pines for wealthy New Yorkers in the 1800s and early 1900s. The Rockefellers and Goulds built mansions there. The township has a large Orthodox Jewish population and has one of the largest yeshivas in the world, Beth Medrash Govoha.
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In recent decades, the population has become more mixed. Some sections of Lakewood have been plagued by troubles with drugs and gangs.