Grand jury declines to indict state trooper for shooting at 3 teens in Sparta

A grand jury declined to indict a state

A grand jury declined to indict a state trooper for shooting at three teens in Sparta last year. (Credit: File photo)

TRENTON - A state grand jury has decided not to indict a New Jersey state trooper for shooting at three teens in Sparta last year.

The July 26, 2015 incident was investigated by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team. No one was hurt in the shooting.

The investigation found that just before 2 a.m. the trooper and his wife were woken up by banging on the door to their Whispering Woods Lane home. The trooper took his off-duty gun, a .40-caliber handgun with a laser sight, and went to find out what was going on.

The trooper says that he heard more banging on his doors and the door knobs jiggling and feared that someone was trying to break in. He says that he yelled to the people outside through his door that he was a state trooper and advised them to get off of his property.

The people outside the home then got into a car and drove away. The trooper went outside to make sure they were gone. He says that the car sped toward him and that’s when he fired three shots at the car. Two of the bullets struck the car, but no one was hit.

The three teens, later identified as Jesse Barkhorn, Jon Baker-Peters and Matthew Mayer, all of Sparta, say that they were looking for one of their friends and mistakenly arrived at the trooper’s home.

The teens were all interviewed by investigators and they all said that the trooper never identified himself as a member of law enforcement. The driver says that he accelerated toward the trooper because he was afraid when he saw him standing in the street with a gun and a laser pointed at him.

All three told investigators that they did not want to hit the trooper and that the driver maneuvered to avoid him.

In October, the teens filed a notice that they may sue the trooper because of the incident. The status of that lawsuit was not immediately known.

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