NJ AG clears Eatontown police officer in armed-robbery shooting
The police officer who shot an armed robbery suspect in Eatontown in late 2016 was justified in the use of force, in findings by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office and Monmouth authorities.
According to the office of Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni, the bi-level review determined that Officer Kevin Licknack, in the path of a speeding car, was legally justified, and had no recourse to avoid either serious injury or death.
Aaron T. Riley, 31, is under indictment for armed robbery, weapons charges, resisting arrest, aggravated assault and attempted murder. A status conference in Monmouth County Superior Court is pending. Riley is represented by Freehold attorney Sarah Surgent.
Eatontown police responded to the Alltown Pharmacy on Wyckoff Road at about 6:43 PM on December 20, 2016.
Investigators said that two men were seen leaving the shop. Officer Kenneth Erickson told Licknack to stop one, soon identified as a delivery driver, while he and Officer Matthew Fix pursued the other.
Errickson and Fix heard a bystander say, "He's got a gun," and during the chase, the suspect dropped what turned out to be a gun, retrieved it, turned and fired in their direction, and ducked between two parked cars, with Licknack near by.
The officers tried to warn Licknack, while a dark vehicle from the row of cars sped toward him, authorities said. They saw Licknack fire several times at the car, which continued on to Route 36. LIcknack fired six times, and stopped after the vehicle passed him, authorities said, based on the six shell casings found at the scene.
Monmouth investigators, after reviewing the circumstances and interacting with witnesses, determined that the officer had no other means to protect himself or others from serious injury or death. The AG's office concurred with the findings.
A pharmacy worker told investigators that she had misgivings when the suspect entered the pharmacy just before closing time, and based some of that judgement on his appearance. Another worker said that the suspect pulled out a handgun and demanded narcotics. Authorities said that surveillance images bore out their statements.
On December 21, New York City police reached Eatontown PD headquarters to report that three men from the area stopped an ambulance, seeking medical help, at about 1 AM. Police identified one as Riley, with a gunshot wound in his leg.
Whether the bullet was from Licknack's gun, or Riley's, was not established, and the bullet was not recovered at the hospital for testing purposes, authorities said, Riley's gun was not recovered. The car was found on the grounds of an Eatontown apartment complex.
Charges are accusations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless, and until, found guilty in a court of law.