A 76-year-old man was seriously wounded in his South Jersey home after an exchange of gunfire with a New Jersey State Police trooper late Friday that stemmed from an apparently mistaken effort to track a 911 call. .
The state Attorney General's Office said in a statement Saturday that a preliminary investigation found that two troopers went to the home on the 300 block of Centerton Road in Upper Deerfield Township, Cumberland County, about 11:30 p.m. after receiving a 911 call, which authorities initially thought originated from a cellphone at that home.
Police dispatchers received the call shortly before 11:30 p.m., but the caller hung up before contact was made, the statement said. The call appeared to have been placed from the home, but that was later determined to be incorrect.
But with the intent of checking on the well-being of the caller, two state troopers from the Bridgeton Station went to the house to see if assistance was needed.
"They approached the single-family residence, which is in a rural area and is set well back from the road," the statement said. The troopers knocked on the door of the home of the home of Gerald Sykes, 76, and his wife. They went to the back of the house, approached a sliding glass door and knocked, shining flashlights into the home and announcing that they were responding to a 911 call, the statement said.
"At that time, there was an exchange of gunfire through the sliding glass door in which one of the troopers fired four rounds from his service 9mm handgun and Gerald Sykes fired a single round from a shotgun," the statement said.
It did not say who shot first. Sykes was shot multiple times and retreated into his house, the statement said. It said he or his wife then called 911, as did their daughter, whom the couple called by phone. With help from 911 dispatchers, Sykes was able to leave his house so that he could receive medical treatment, the statement said. Sykes was airlifted to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where he was in critical but stable condition.
One of the troopers suffered a graze wound from either the shotgun or from flying glass from the shotgun blast, the statement said. Both troopers were taken to Inspira Medical Center in Vineland and were later released from the hospital.
The state Attorney General's Office Shooting Response Team is handling the investigation since it was a trooper-involved shooting.
It said no further details would be released beyond the statement, citing the ongoing investigation.