UPDATE: A Paramus police officer working a Narcotic Task Force detail was ambushed and shot during a $400 marijuana sting in a Garfield department store parking lot this afternoon, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli confirmed early this evening.
The officer, on loan to the unit, was in stable condition at Hackensack University Medical Center, the prosecutor said, confirming an earlier CLIFFVIEW PILOT report.
- YOU SAW THEM HERE FIRST: Two men charged in the ambush shooting of a Paramus police officer working a Narcotic Task Force detail in Garfield yesterday were being held on $750,000 bail each in the Bergen County Jail. READ MORE ….
He was in the driver’s seat of a county undercover vehicle with another suspect for what was supposed to be a pot buy when the gunman walked up to the car window, pointed a gun at the officer and said, “Give me everything you have,” said Molinelli ( above, right ).
The gunman fired into the car twice, hitting the officer in the right hip and the lower left leg, the prosecutor said during a news conference in the HUMC lobby.
Seven backup officers then converged on the car, shooting the gunman in the arm and leg. He was taken to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson, Molinelli said.
The nine-year Paramus PD veteran sustained two lower leg fractures, among other injuries.
The officer was in surgery and expected to recover fully, Dr. Joseph Feldman, the director of the HUMC trauma unit said during the news conference. His family was being notified, Paramus Deputy Police Chief Robert Guidetti (above, left) told reporters.
The incident began around 1:45 p.m. outside the Marshals store in the Walmart complex on Passaic Street.
“It was an average street drug buy,” Molinelli said. “Narcotics, even in this county, is a dangerous practice.
“The officers were prepared, and when things fell apart they came in and did their jobs,” the prosecutor said. “It was done perfectly, with both backup teams. No one ever goes in alone to make a drug buy.”
Molinelli said he believes the trio set up the officer, who they thought was a local pot dealer.
The wounded gunman — identified as 25-year-old Raphael Angel Vasquez Pena of Passaic — will be charged with attempted murder and weapons offenses, among other counts, the prosecutor said.
Police also immediately arrested the suspect in the car, identified as Melvin Guzman, 19, of Garfield.
A third suspect backed out of the lot in the car that brought Guzman there, then drove south on the Garden State Parkway before being stopped and arrested by New Jersey state troopers near the Essex tolls.
He was identified as Patrick E. Morrell, 21, of Clifton.
STORY / PHOTO TOP: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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