Published March 27, 2013
TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is asking the attorney general to probe the state's visit to the home of a man who uploaded a photo on Facebook of his 10-year-old son holding a military-style rifle.
The state child welfare agency and local police went to the Carneys Point home of Shawn Moore on March 14 following what police say were anonymous calls expressing concern about the safety of a child.
Moore has said he believes he was investigated because of the photo he posted online of his son holding the gun he got for his 11th birthday. The weapon was a .22-caliber rifle made to look like an assault rifle.
Moore said that state child welfare workers and police in SWAT gear showed up at his home, the caseworkers were aggressive and the visit was uncalled for.
No charges were filed against Moore.
Christie says reports on the inquiry raise "troubling questions."
In a letter Friday, the governor asked Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to determine "whether all applicable laws were appropriately followed, and to take any remedial, investigative or other actions that may be required."
"The public reports of this matter raise troubling questions concerning the facts and circumstances surrounding the investigation, the manner in which the investigation was conducted, and the procedures followed by law enforcement and the Division of Child Protection and Permanency," the governor wrote. The Christie administration provided a copy of the letter Wednesday.
The state welfare agency, citing confidentiality requirements, has not commented on its visit to the Moore home. Agency officials said only that caseworkers may request police to accompany them on visits if they have reason to be concerned about their personal safety.
Moore's attorney, Evan Nappen, said Wednesday he believes the public outcry over the case led to the quick decision by the Christie administration to investigate. He said he did not request the probe.
"We welcome the investigation so that something like this hopefully doesn't happen again," Nappen said. "There's this really great reason why there's no charges and the case is closed, and that's because my client didn't do anything wrong."
Moore first posted a comment about the incident on a gun rights website and within days was appearing with his son, Josh, on a Fox News talk show and elsewhere.
In a statement, Carney Point Police Chief Robert DiGregorio and Mayor Richard Gatanis said officers went to the family's home after getting anonymous tips that a boy there might have access to weapons and ammunition.
"In light of some of the recent school shootings across our nation, the Carneys Point Police Department takes these types of calls seriously," they said, adding that they were obligated to go there with state Department of Children and Family caseworkers who requested assistance.
Moore had said the authorities requested to see his weapons, but with his lawyer on a speakerphone he denied them access because they did not have a search warrant.
The Carneys Point officials said the officers -- in night uniforms and body armor but not SWAT gear -- did not attempt an unlawful search.
The officials said that they respect citizens' rights to own weapons and that several officers knew the elder Moore from a shooting club.
Nappen said the problem is the idea that the government could respond to people talking about or with photos of weapons on social media.
"This is a shame because of the impact it has on a really good dad and his son," Nappen said. "No one was in danger."
He said the state Department of Children and Families was aggressive and intimidating and could have avoided the situation by calling first.
A department spokesman --without commenting on the specific case -- said that the department routinely checks on tips it receives.
The department has been under years of court-monitoring and has been criticized in several cases where children who died or were in peril were not checked on.
In a moment of heightened sensitivity around guns and gun control, the brief saga had the makings of a debate starter between people who oppose guns and those who say authorities are overzealous about even legal weapons.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.