Family of man shot by off-duty Newark police officer wants weapon laws changed

The family of a man shot and killed by an off-duty Newark police officer during an alleged bar brawl says that they want to see

Michael Gaffney was shot and killed by an off-duty Newark police officer in Union Township.

Michael Gaffney was shot and killed by an off-duty Newark police officer in Union Township. (5/18/16)

UNION TOWNSHIP - The family of a man shot and killed by an off-duty Newark police officer during an alleged bar brawl says that they want to see changes made to laws that allow off-duty officers to carry their service weapons.

Michael Gaffney was killed after reportedly getting into an altercation with the off-duty officer at Paddy’s Place around 1:15 a.m. last Friday. Gaffney’s family say that both men had been drinking, and the officer shouldn’t have had his gun inside the bar.

“It’s affected our family, my sister is completely destroyed, our lives are completely wiped out,” says Gaffney’s uncle, Les Williams.

A wake for Gaffney was held Wednesday.

The family has now started a petition to try to get laws changed that allow off-duty police officers to carry weapons. “Gaffney’s Law” would make it illegal for an off-duty law enforcement officer to carry a service weapon into any bar or establishment where they intend to consume alcohol.

“So many of us were grief-stricken and I didn't want violence to beget violence,” says Ellen Sona, who started the petition at Change.org.

Sona hopes to get 2,500 signatures. The petition is addressed to some of New Jersey’s congressmen, as well as Gov. Chris Christie.

Newark FOP President James Stewart Jr. says in a statement, “I don't think anybody advocates for carrying a weapon while being intoxicated, whether it’s in a bar, the race track or the mall. We, like every other department, have, and will continue to follow, the guidelines set forth by the attorney general.”

Federal laws currently allow active-duty police officers to carrying weapons in any U.S. state, superseding state laws. 

“We can't bring Mikey back but we can change the law,” Sona says.

The officer who shot Gaffney has not been named. According to a spokesman for Newark police, “the officer is on active duty in an administrative capacity, which is the protocol with shooting investigations.”

Newark police have not said if the officer was intoxicated at the time of the shooting.

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