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Prosecutor: Use Of Deadly Force Justified In Shooting Of Armed Suspect In Eatontown

The following is a press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office:

The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO) is releasing the following statement regarding a police-involved shooting in Eatontown as required by the Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive Amending Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive No. 2006-5. Based on a review of this matter by both the MCPO and the Attorney General's Office, it has been determined that use of force by the officer involved was legally justified and that the MCPO fully complied with all portions of the above-referenced Directive regarding uniform statewide procedures and best practices for conducting police use of force investigations.

On Dec. 20, 2016, at approximately 6:43 p.m., following an armed robbery of the Alltown Pharmacy on Wyckoff Road, 31-year-old Eatontown resident Aaron T. Riley was attempting to evade capture by police. He shot once at officers who ran after him. He then jumped in a vehicle and drove directly at another officer. The officer who was almost struck by Riley's vehicle fired his weapon at Riley.

Following the incident, MCPO detectives from the Major Crimes, Professional Responsibility, and Crime Scene Units conducted an investigation into the circumstances and events leading up to the shooting. During the course of the investigation, detectives documented the scene, recovered ballistic evidence, interviewed all officers on the scene, as well as a number of civilian witnesses with relevant information.

Based on the results of the investigation, the MCPO determined that the use of deadly force by the officer who fired his weapon was clearly necessary to protect him or others from imminent death or serious bodily injury and there were no other means available at the time to avert or eliminate the danger that Riley created by his actions. No criminal charges were filed against the officer and the matter was not presented to a grand jury. The Division of Criminal Justice, Office of the Attorney General, reviewed the MCPO's investigation and concurred with the conclusion that the use of deadly force was legally justified. Additionally, the Division of Criminal Justice agreed with the MCPO's determination that the case forego presentation to a grand jury as there were no facts in dispute with the Officer's use of force.

The investigation revealed that on December 20, 2016, at approximately 6:43 p.m., Eatontown Police Department received a 911 call regarding a robbery in progress at the Alltown Pharmacy. When officers arrived and approached the pharmacy, they observed two (2) men exit the pharmacy. Officer Kenneth Errickson told Officer Kevin Licknack to stop the first man while he and Officer Matthew Fix pursued the second man. The first man was immediately identified as a delivery driver. Officers Errickson and Fix yelled commands for the suspect (the second man) to stop as they ran after him. Officers Errickson and Fix both heard a concerned citizen say "he's got a gun." As they ran after the suspect, they observed him fall and drop something from his hands. The suspect picked up the item, turned toward them, and fired a shot at them. The suspect continued to run and went between parked cars. Officers Errickson and Fix observed Officer Licknack in the area where they saw the suspect run and tried to warn him that the suspect was nearby. At that point, a dark colored vehicle pulled out from the row of vehicles without headlights on and headed toward Officer Licknack at a high rate of speed. Officers Errickson and Fix believed Officer Licknack was going to get hit by the vehicle. They observed Officer Licknack fire multiple times at the vehicle but the vehicle continued to Route 36 and left the area. Officer Licknack fired six (6) times and stopped once the vehicle passed him. Forensics recovered six (6) shell casings at the scene.

An employee of the pharmacy told detectives that she observed the suspect after he entered the pharmacy on their surveillance camera. Based on his overall appearance and the fact that he arrived just before closing, she immediately knew something was wrong. She called 911, which is why the police arrived so quickly. Another employee of the pharmacy told detectives that, shortly after he entered the pharmacy, the suspect brandished a handgun and demanded narcotics. Detectives watched the surveillance footage, which corroborated what the witnesses told police.

The following day, the New York Police Department (NYPD) contacted the Eatontown Police Department to inform them that three (3) men from the Eatontown/Tinton Falls area flagged down a passing ambulance to get medical assistance at approximately 1:00 a.m. that morning. One of those men was identified as Aaron Riley. Riley had a single gunshot wound to his left leg. It is unclear whether a bullet from Officer Licknack's gun struck Riley in the leg or he shot himself. The bullet in his leg could not be recovered at the hospital in order to be tested. Riley's gun was never recovered. The vehicle Riley was driving after the robbery was later located in the parking lot of a nearby Eatontown apartment complex with visible projectile strike damage and shattered windows.

Riley was indicted by a Monmouth County Grand Jury for Armed Robbery, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, Resisting Arrest, Aggravated Assault, and Attempted Murder. The case is pending a status conference before a Monmouth County Superior Court Judge.

The case is assigned to Assistant Prosecutor Sean Brennan.

Riley is represented by Sarah Surgent, Esq., of Freehold.


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