Police video captures fatal confrontation with murder suspect
Footage from Millville Police Department police cruiser captures shooting death of Jose Pietri on April 14. The Daily Journal
MILLVILLE - A man wanted in a Camden County murder allegedly threatened and then shot at police just before a Millville police officer opened fire 14 times, killing the suspect on a dead-end street last month.
The shooting death of Jose M. Pietri, captured on police video, was the climax of a high-speed pursuit from Winslow Township to Millville on April 14.
The video, recorded by the dashcam of a Millville police cruiser, was released on Wednesday in response to an Open Public Records Act request from The Daily Journal.
A Use of Force Report identifies Millville Officer Joseph Dixon, a five-year veteran of the force, as the officer who shot Pietri.
The report, which also was made available Wednesday in response to an OPRA request, indicates Dixon fired his service weapon 14 times. It says the number of times the suspect was hit is unknown. Autopsy results have not been disclosed.
Pietri, already a felon due to a child abuse conviction, had fled Winslow with township officers in pursuit, according to police. He was the sole suspect in a double shooting that same morning in Winslow Township that left a 47-year-old man dead and a 26-year-old woman badly wounded.
The chase ended about 9:10 a.m. when officers cornered Pietri on Holly Berry Lane, a dead-end road in the city's southern end.
A video camera inside the Millville police cruiser records the vehicle Pietri is driving moving on Holly Berry Lane and past a Millville Housing Authority complex on the left.
Pietri is ahead of the cruiser and quickly approaching the dead end.
Pietri veers to the right, near the curb, throwing up dust, and then circles hard left until the vehicle stops near the curb closest to a row of apartments on the left.
His vehicle stops perpendicular to the curb, so Pietri is visible in the driver’s seat. The Millville cruiser stops in the middle of the street.
At that point, what officials say is a minor female exits from the other side of Pietri’s vehicle. The video was blurred deliberately by the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office to conceal her identity.
The Millville officer is seen rounding the front of his vehicle as the female makes her way to the far side of the road. His pistol drawn and pointed, he converges on her and pushes her behind him.
The officer then pushes his sunglasses onto his head with one hand and then takes a two-handed shooting stance. He keeps near the curb on the right side of the road, pointing his sidearm at Pietri.
Pietri opens his door and his vehicle lurches forward, then stops. The officer’s left hand makes a downward gesture as Pietri starts to exit, possibly a direction to the suspect to lie down. Pietri continues to get out and appears to raise his right arm in the direction of the officer.
At that point, Pietri is seen falling limply backward, first hitting the door and then the street, apparently having been shot. The officer back peddles as he continues to shoot and then moves to his left still apparently shooting. Numerous puffs of white dust or smoke rise from the street, apparently from bullet impacts.
A second officer aiming a rifle or carbine then appears to his left, passing the driver’s side of the Millville police cruiser and moving in the direction of Pietri.
Quickly, two more officers appear together. The pair move towards the suspect’s vehicle, actually bumping into the back of the officer carrying the rifle or carbine. The Millville officer stays apart, aiming at Pietri and maintaining an angle that would allow him to shoot again without hitting another officer.
The other three officers reach Pietri and, with two picking up his arms, drag him away from the vehicle.
Pietri, 55, of Pennsville reportedly was taken to Inspira Medical Center Vineland, where he was pronounced dead.
Prosecutors in Cumberland and Camden counties have been investigating different aspects of the incident.
Camden County had said previously Pietri and the woman he shot are the parents of two young children. The children were missing initially but were found safe in an undisclosed site in Salem County. The woman's name has not been released.
On Wednesday, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office said no more information will be released on the Winslow incident because no charges are filed against Pietri.
"Out of respect for the surviving victims, as well as the decedent’s family, there will be no information released on any individuals who were involved in the incident," spokeswoman Alex McVeigh stated.
Records from Salem County Superior Court, the State Parole Board, and local police show Pietri had indictable-level arrests in Salem County as far back as 1999, in that case for allegedly violating a domestic violence-related restraint order. He was charged with that offense again in 2000. The charges were downgraded in both cases, according to court records.
Born in Puerto Rico, court records show Pietri by 1995 was a resident of Penns Grove. He spent much of his life in the borough, but also lived in Carneys Point and most recently in Pennsville.
In August 2001, a Penns Grove police report shows Pietri was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a minor.
That report lists Pietri as a resident of the borough, married, and working at a Holiday Inn in Bridgeport.The arresting officer was Sgt. John Stranahan, now chief of police.
Pietri subsequently was indicted on two charges: First-degree aggravated sexual assault of a minor younger than 13, who is identified only by initials; and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
According to the 2001 indictment, Pietri "knowingly did commit an act of sexual penetration" on the victim. Pietri had a "legal duty" to care for the victim but "knowingly did engage in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the said child."
The indictment states that the incident occurred in March 1995, placing the victim's age at 7. Pietri, who held 220 pounds on a 5-foot-5 frame, was 38 years old at the time.
Pietri entered a guilty plea to the endangerment charge. In return, prosecutors dismissed the more serious aggravated sexual assault charge.
Court records indicate he was sentenced in April 2002 to three years in prison. He was released from prison on May 26, 2004, according to the parole board.
As part of his sentence, he was placed under Community Lifetime Supervision. That took effect on his release from prison. Four "special" conditions were added to the usual conditions. Those added terms ordered him not to contact "certain persons."
The parole board provided a copy of the supervision certificate, but the special conditions were blacked out because they are considered "of a confidential nature."
Pietri was not originally sentenced under the Sex Offender Act but was subject to Megan's Law, according to the parole board.
In February 2014, Pietri was arrested for violating the requirements of his Community Supervision for Life certificate and spent a week in Salem County Jail. He was indicted later that year in Salem County.
The indictment states that Pietri "failed to refrain from attempting to initiate, establish or maintain contact with any minor" as well as a woman.
In September 2014, Pietri was sentenced to one year's probation and 100 hours of community service.
The parole board said Pietri had been in compliance with his parole restrictions.
Joseph P. Smith: @jpsmith_dj; (856) 563-5252; firstname.lastname@example.org
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