12/15/2005

Knife-wielding NJ man shot dead by police

By Sam Wood   
Inquirer Staff Writer

The fatal shooting of a Palmyra man by police after a confrontation at his home was "a heartbreaking and tragic event," Mayor John J. Gural Jr. said yesterday.

"I strongly believe the police acted appropriately and did what they had to do to protect themselves" Tuesday night, Gural said. "But we're a small town, and things like this affect everyone."

Police shot Thomas Garcia, 63, shortly before 9 p.m. after he charged at them with a knife, authorities said.

Two officers were injured, and the shooting is under investigation, Police Chief Richard Dreby said yesterday.

Garcia was in his front yard with a knife in one hand when patrol officers arrived in the 900 block of Highland Avenue to investigate a domestic disturbance called in by a next-door neighbor.

When officers ordered Garcia to drop the knife, he lunged, with the blade drawn, at Palmyra Patrolman John Quigg, said Jack Smith, spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office.

The knife sliced through a microphone cord attached to Quigg's shirt, but a thick leather duty belt deflected it from his abdomen, Smith said.

Riverton Officer Tommy Merino fired four bullets into Garcia's torso, Smith said. Garcia collapsed but rose almost immediately.

"The officers had to hold him down until emergency workers arrived," Gural said.

Garcia was flown to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where he died during surgery, Smith said.

Quigg and Merino were treated for leg injuries at hospitals and were recovering yesterday at home.

Quigg, 42, is a 17-year veteran of the Palmyra police force. Merino, 37, has served 12 years on the Riverton police force, the last five full time.

Officers had been called only once before to Garcia's home, to investigate a disturbance two years ago, Dreby said. The chief said he did not know the particulars.

 Philadelphia Inquirer (http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/)

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