The man who were responding to a 911 domestic violence call in Tuckerton Thursday night was armed with a meat cleaver, Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford said.
The man, identified as 35-year-old borough resident Steven D. Theoharides of 207 Otis Road, was released from state prison in 2009.
Theoharides served nine years for assault, eluding a police officer and resisting arrest in two incidents that took place in Middlesex County in 2000.
In the Tuckerton incident Thursday night, Theoharides was armed with a meat cleaver that measured roughly 6 inches by four inches, Ford said in a prepared statement.
"During the encounter, both police officers apparently discharged their weapons, striking the deceased," Ford said.
An autopsy will be performed today by the Office of the Ocean County Medical Examiner, which will determine the official cause of death. However, Ford said it appears that Theoharides died as a result of gunshot wounds inflicted during the encounter.
Theoharides was pronounced dead at 9:09 p.m. Thursday by Dr. Michael Egan of Monmouth Medical Center.
“Emergency medical aid was given to Mr. Theoharides, but unfortunately, efforts to revive him were unsuccessful," she said.
The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office will handle the entire investigation, Ford said.
"No member of the Tuckerton Police Department will be involved in or have access to this investigation," she said. "Whether or not the use of deadly force by police in this circumstance, based upon self defense or any other legal justification, was appropriate will be the subject of an exhaustive review by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and by the Office of the Attorney General of NJ."
“Consistent with protocols adopted by the Attorney General’s Office, the Attorney General and the Division of Criminal Justice has been informed of this event," Ford said. "We have been authorized by them to conduct this investigation."
The officers directly involved in the shooting, Officer Brian Olsen and Officer Justin Cherry, have been placed on administrative duty until the investigation is completed by the prosecutor's office, and until the Attorney General completes an independent review, according to Ford.
Both police officers received medical treatment and were released from the hospital last night.
"I am not aware that they received any physical injuries in this altercation," Ford said. "Obviously, this type of incident is traumatic to all involved, including the officers. They, as well as other members of the department, have been offered appropriate employee assistance services. The officers directly involved in the shooting will not be authorized to return to full active duty until our investigation is completed and I authorize the return of those officers to full active duty."
“The fact that the officers involved in this shooting have been placed on administrative duty should not be interpreted as suggesting any finding by this office of whether or not the use of deadly force was appropriate. Obviously, we are in the early stages of this investigation, and it would be grossly premature to make any such judgments. We will need to complete an objective and complete investigation before such a determination is made,” said Ford.
The domestic violence call that the police officers responded to was made by "a female co-habitating with an individual who said she was concerned for her safety," according to the prosecutor's office. When police arrived upon the scene, the female caller had already taken refuge in a neighbor’s home.
This is a continuing investigation, and any new information will be shared with the public and the media, said Ford.
The investigation is being headed by Detective Carlos Trujillo-Tovar and by Detective Casey Long. Anyone with information about this event is encouraged to contact Detective Trujillo-Tovar or Detective Long at the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, 732-929-2027.