Charles Frederick Sharp III had called police to his southwestern New Jersey home in the middle of the night to report trespassers in his backyard. One was carrying a weapon, Sharp, who spent more than 20 years in the US Air Force, told a 911 dispatcher.
Within five seconds of his arrival, a police officer fired multiple shots, fatally wounding Mr. Sharp as he stood outside his home in Mantua, NJ, in September 2021, according to state officials and body camera footage worn by police officers.
Mr Sharp, 49, was still on the phone with police when he was struck.
On Wednesday, the state attorney general announced that a grand jury voted this week to take the rare step of indicting the officer, Salvatore Oldrati, on manslaughter charges.
Thomas J. Eicher, executive director of the attorney general’s public integrity office, said Officer Oldrati gave Mr. Sharp no verbal commands or warnings before opening fire. A “detailed replica” of a .45 caliber handgun was found near Mr. Sharp, according to the attorney general’s office.
“Less than five seconds elapsed between the time Officer Oldrati exited his police vehicle and the time he began shooting at Mr. Sharp,” Eicher said in a statement.
Christopher St. John, the attorney for Officer Oldrati, could not immediately be reached for comment. If he is found guilty, the officer faces 10 years in prison.
Mantua, a mostly rural community in Gloucester County, is about 15 miles east of the Delaware River and the Pennsylvania border.
Sharp, who had a son, was known as Chuck and was remembered as a “fun guy” and a talented carpenter who spent years working for a remodeling company in New Jersey after leaving the Air Force, according to his obituary.
In a five-minute call with two law enforcement officers on September 14, 2021, Sharp told officers that he had seen two men from his window around 1 a.m. One was in his shed with a gun. silver. The other was trying to get into his truck.
He explained that he had thrown firecrackers at the men to try to scare them off, but that had not worked. And he said that he had a gun, inherited from his grandfather.
“I don’t know what I’m allowed to do with it,” he said in the recorded call. “So I threw them a couple of quarter sticks. Maybe that’s not the most professional, but…
A barrage of gunshots can then be heard on the 911 recording.
Officer Oldrati is at least the second police officer this year to be criminally charged by New Jersey prosecutors for a shooting while on duty. In February, Jerry Moravek, a police officer with the Paterson Police Department, which was recently taken over by the state, was charged with aggravated assault after Khalif Cooper was shot in the back as he was running from officers.
Mr. Cooper survived but his injuries left him paralyzed.
All fatal encounters with police in New Jersey are investigated by the state attorney general’s office and must be brought before a grand jury. Images from body cameras must also be released publicly.
Last month, a grand jury indicted two Atlantic County jail corrections officers on manslaughter charges in connection with the death of a detainee who had ingested methamphetamine and ecstasy and died after being beaten and forcibly restrained in the jail.
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