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Civilians urged Leonia robbery suspect to drop knife before shooting

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Police officers from Leonia and Palisades Park weren’t the only ones shouting at a man to drop a large knife as he approached police minutes after holding up a Broad Avenue CVS: Both a man and woman who witnessed what became a fatal encounter did so, as well, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.

Both were among no fewer than four civilians who have given similar eyewitness accounts of the broad-daylight events on a Leonia street Sunday afternoon, a law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the incident told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

All of them reportedly agreed the officers were clearly defending themselves and protecting the public from a serious threat.

  • YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Two Palisades Park police veterans known throughout town for their work with the volunteer ambulance corps and a third who’s been on the road barely six months were identified by Chief Benjamin Ramos today as those involved in the Nov. 25 shooting death of a knife-wielding Leonia man moments after he held up a Broad Avenue CVS. READ MORE….

“No one wants to shoot anyone,” a Bergen County police official said. “Unless you’ve been involved in something like this, or know someone who has, you can’t imagine what it does to a police officer.”

Although they received an official request from a local media organization today for information about the incident, neither the Palisades Park nor Leonia police department — nor Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli’s Office — is required to immediately disclose the officers’ identities.

Their names likely won’t be made public until Monday, at the earliest, CLIFFVIEW PILOT exclusively has learned.

The officers must first complete use-of-force forms and be interviewed by investigators from the prosecutor’s Police Shooting Response Team, with their attorneys present, in Paramus. That hadn’t been done as of early this evening.

Interviews tentatively scheduled for yesterday were postponed, as was another today, for personal reasons.

Molinelli said he had no qualms with the explanation, which CLIFFVIEW PILOT isn’t disclosing out of deference to the officers.

Nothing in the state Attorney General’s guidelines for the use of deadly force says the officers must be interviewed immediately after an initial 48-hour window has expired.

Nor does it say their identities must be immediately disclosed.

The public can request a recording of the initial 911 call, as well as what may have been recorded by a dashboard camera on a police car, under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act.

Palisades Park radio cars don’t have cameras. Leonia’s do.

However, the investigation by the prosecutor’s office is still ongoing, so those materials might not necessarily be provided immediately.

Once the review is completed, Molinelli, in counsel with his staff, will determine whether to present the case to a grand jury or tell the state Attorney General he is satisfied that everything was done by the book.

The grand jury, if given the case, would decide whether criminal charges are warranted, or issue a “no bill” clearing the officers of any wrongdoing.

The panel’s review would include the results of an autopsy that was being conducted this week, although toxicology reports aren’t expected until early January.

What happened Sunday was first reported exclusively by CVP less than an hour after the incident: Robbery suspect with knife shot dead in confrontation with police in Leonia

CLIFFVIEW PILOT also was the first to report: Prosecutor identifies Leonia robbery suspect shot dead by police

Rickey McFadden had just turned the corner after pulling a knife on a clerk at the Broad Avenue CVS when a Leonia police officer responding to the 911 call arrived and ordered him to drop the weapon, witnesses said.

McFadden kept walking, however.

Moments later, three Palisades Park police officers arrived, backing up their colleague.

Despite their attempts to keep McFadden from hurting anyone, the situation escalated over the course of another block, witnesses said.

At the intersection of Hillside and Kingsley avenues, one of the officers and McFadden, 47, drew close to one another.

The officer pepper-sprayed him, but McFadden — knife in hand — kept coming despite the entreaties of both police and civilians, they said.

Two of the Palisades Park officers and the Leonia officer then discharged their weapons, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.

McFadden, who lived with his parents at 473 Grand Avenue in Leonia, fell on his back, arms outstretched. He was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead sometime later.

Among the items recovered at the scene was the knife, the empty pepper-spray cannister and items reported taken from the CVS.

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