Shooting of Newark police officer lauded as example of police restraint

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NEWARK -

The circumstances surrounding the shooting of a Newark police officer last year are being praised as an example of police using restraint in the face of a stressful situation.

Newark police executed a search warrant on a Goodwin Avenue home on Oct. 14, 2017. During the course of the investigation Detective Joe Soares was shot in the chest. His bulletproof vest saved his life.

“I felt my chest where I got hit,” he says. “I was looking for some kind of, I guess blood or whatever the case may be.”

RELATED: Suspect fired at Newark officer, struck bulletproof vest, police say

But neither Soares or other officers fired back after the shooting. They were instead able to de-escalate the situation by backing up and surrounding the house. They were eventually able to convince suspect James Dennard to surrender.

Soares says that it is usually instinct to return gunfire in situations like this.

“If you have a target. But there was no target to engage at that time,” he says. “We can’t do that.”

Police say that there was also a 2-year-old child in the home during the raid. Officials say that the officers’ restraint prevented a potential tragedy.

“Blessed and proud of our officers in the city of Newark,” Mayor Ras Baraka said after the shooting. “The discipline that they did in being able to go into a house, take on fire and still execute an arrest without firing a weapon one time.”

Lt. Richard Casale, commander of the Newark SWAT team, says that it all comes down to training – training to use force, but also training in how to avoid having to use it.

“Your average officer may not do that, they may fire back. But we train constantly,” Casale says. “We have mandatory training sessions…30 mandatory training sessions that each member must attend.”

The October raid will now be used as a case study on how to make sure everyone makes it out of a tense situation alive.

James Dennard was indicted on attempted murder and six other counts. Attorney Brook Barnett says that police were overly aggressive. She says that Dennard only had a small amount of marijuana for personal use and fired in self-defense because police had forced the door open and he thought he was being burglarized. 

The two sides are expected in court Monday.

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