LAKEWOOD, N.J. – Four New Jersey cops and a suspect were shot early Thursday during a gunbattle that broke out while officers were trying to search a home for drugs and weapons.
A gunman opened fire early Thursday on a SWAT team that burst into a home in suburban Lakewood during a drug and gun raid, authorities said.
Four officers were wounded — one critically — when the suspect sprayed bullets from atop a staircase.
Lakewood Patrolman Jonathan Wilson was shot in the face during the raid, and was in critical but stable condition at a local hospital. Authorities said they were optimistic he would survive despite being grievously wounded.
"He is in good spirits, and he's communicating," said Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford.
Authorities said Wilson is in danger of losing an eye from the gunshot wound. Wilson is a six-year veteran of the force who is married with four children, including a newborn.
Police Chief Robert Lawson said the officer was shot in the forehead. But because the bullet was fired at a downward angle, it did not penetrate his skull, instead exiting through the side of his face.
Lt. Greg Meyer was shot in the foot, and was in good condition at the hospital following surgery for bone injuries.
Two other Lakewood officers, Sgt. Louis Sasso and Patrolman Leonard Nieves Sr. were shot in their specially reinforced bulletproof vests, sustaining only minor injuries despite being struck in the chest. They were treated and released from the hospital.
The suspect, Jamie Gonzalez, 39, was in critical condition after suffering numerous gunshot wounds as police returned fire, Ford said.
He was charged with four counts of attempted murder, as well illegal weapons possession and receiving stolen property. The .357 Magnum used to shoot the officers was reported stolen from South Carolina, Ford said.
Gonzalez was to be held on $2 million bail once released from the hospital.
A second man who was inside the house when the shooting erupted also was in custody, but had not been charged as of mid-day Thursday. First Assistant Prosecutor Ronald DeLigny said it does not appear the second person was involved in the shooting, but may be implicated in the underlying guns and drugs case that brought the multi-agency task force to the house in the first place.
At 2:25 a.m., the task force consisting of officers from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, New Jersey State Police, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office and Lakewood police executed a "no-knock" search warrant at the single family split-level home.
They knocked down the door with a battering ram, entered a mid-level landing and were heading upstairs when Gonzalez opened fire on them from atop a staircase, striking the four officers, authorities said.
Police returned fire and shot Gonzalez several times. It was not immediately clear how many shots were fired.
Authorities were still searching the house Thursday for evidence in the shooting case, as well as the gun and drugs case. Ford would not say whether any drugs or additional weapons were found inside.
She would not characterize the underlying drug and weapons case other than to say it was "big enough to attract the attention of the task force."
Neighbors said they had noticed numerous cars pulling up to the house then quickly leaving after the occupants entered and left the house.
"It's not the same world it used to be, people killing each other all the time," said neighbor Robin Kumar. "Police are here to protect us; why would you do such a thing?"
The shooting comes more than two months after Jersey City police Det. Marc DiNardo was shot in the face storming an apartment where two armed robbery suspects were holed up. Four other officers were wounded in the gun battle and the suspects were killed.
DiNardo was taken off life support and pronounced dead one day before his 38th birthday.
Lakewood was once known as the resort in the pines for wealthy New Yorkers in the 1800s and early 1900s. The Rockefellers and Goulds built mansions there. The township has a large Orthodox Jewish population and has one of the largest yeshivas in the world, Beth Medrash Govoha.
In recent decades, the population has become more mixed. Some sections of Lakewood have been plagued by troubles with drugs and gangs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.