Police: Suspect fired at Newark officer, struck bulletproof vest

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NEWARK -

A bulletproof vest helped a Newark police officer escape serious injury when a suspect fired a shot at him Saturday morning as a search warrant was being served.

"It could have been a dark day for everyone involved," says Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose.

Members of the police department and SWAT team were executing the warrant at a basement apartment located at 168 Goodwin Ave. around 6:30 a.m. That's when police say the suspect, 22-year-old James Dennard, fired a gun inside the apartment, striking the officer's bulletproof vest.

The 59-year-old officer, who is a 15-year veteran of the force, was hospitalized with minor injuries. He has since been treated and released.

Police arrested Dennard and his roommate, 24-year-old Latasia Phillips. The pair is facing several charges, including possession of a weapon.

Authorities say the warrant was issued following a 30-day investigation after they were tipped off to alleged drug trafficking in the apartment.

"I'm incredibly blessed and proud of our officers here in the City of Newark for exercising the restraint and the discipline that they did to be able to go into a house... take on fire and still execute an arrest without firing a weapon one time," says Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

The suspect's father, Rod Dennard, says he suspects his son opened fire because he thought it was a home invasion.

"He's a good kid," the elder Dennard says. "I don't know what happened.

The suspect's 2-year-old daughter was in the apartment at the time of the shooting. The child was uninjured and is now staying with relatives.

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