BERGEN COUNTY - An honorably discharged Marine police officer is facing weapons charges after showing up to the Garden State Plaza mall Monday night and telling authorities he wanted to aid in their search.
Cody Donovan, 22, rushed to the scene and told police he wanted to help apprehend the suspect.
"He had no intent to do anything but be a good Samaritan," says Donovan's attorney James Patuto. "And he was acting as a good Samaritan within the scope of his former police training."
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However, Bergen County police officers treated Donovan as a possible suspect. Authorities say Donovan matched the description almost perfectly of shooter Richard Shoop, down to his height, weight and clothing.
When officers approached him, Donovan says he provided his Marine Corps military police badge. Officers then found a loaded .45-caliber handgun in his waistband.
Donovan admits he does not have a permit to carry the gun in New Jersey. He's now charged with unlawful possession of a handgun.
Questions are being raised about when and how those with law enforcement training should help during emergencies.
Bergen County Police Chief Brian Higgins says that in plainclothes, Donovan was not identifiable to other officers. He had also not been a part of their emergency training. "To have somebody who is not part of that command structure running around the mall armed, we don't know what could happen," says Higgins.
Donovan says he was asked to help direct traffic. His attorney says his client never posed a danger to anyone.