A retired NYPD lieutenant was fatally shot by a SWAT team in New Jersey, the state attorney general and the man’s wife said on Monday.
Patrick Fennell, 57, was shot by the Ocean County Regional SWAT team after his wife Linda called police when she found him acting “strange” and drunkenly loading a revolver in the basement of their Sycamore Drive home in Little Egg Harbor Township around 6:20 p.m., according to a statement from Acting Attorney General Christopher Porrino’s office and Linda Fennell.
“Patrick had been drinking. He came into the house and went downstairs to the basement,” Fennell’s wife said.
“I thought it was a little odd so I went down there to ask what he was doing and he was loading a revolver. I said, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?”
That’s when she approached him and tried to grab the bullets, but Fennell shoved her away.
“I went to take the bullets and he pushed me, which was out of character,” said the 57-year-old woman who was married to the man for 33 years.
She then went back upstairs to phone police. As she explained the situation to the 911 dispatcher, the crack of two gunshots echoed from the basement.
“I was extremely erratic. (The dispatcher) asked if anyone else was in the house. I said ‘my dog.’ They said, ‘Take the dog and get out of the house.’”
The grieving Fennell said her husband must have changed his clothes because when police officers arrived he came out wearing camouflage and retreated into the woods behind his home, armed with a revolver, she said.
The SWAT team then fanned out to surround the area before they closed in on him, Porrino’s office said.
At about 10:30 p.m. the officers confronted him, officials said.
Porrino’s office said a SWAT member then fired five rounds, hitting Fennell.
He died at the scene and cops recover his weapon.
“Two police officers came over and said, ‘I’m sorry,’” the widowed Fennell said.
It was not clear what precipitated the fatal encounter but Fennell’s wife said she couldn’t imagine her husband — who retired after 20 years with the NYPD in 2001 – training a weapon on a cop.
“I don’t believe — and I don’t think anybody that ever knew him would believe — he would point a gun at a police officer,” she said.
She admitted, though, that as the hours passed, she began to imagine a grim ending.
“I really couldn’t believe he was doing what he was doing… After hours I thought, ‘Oh, my God, maybe it’s too far for him to turn back,” she said.
Porrino’s office declined to detail what led to the fatal shooting as the investigation is ongoing.
Fennell’s wife said his behavior was unlike anything she had ever seen before, describing him as a gregarious and helpful man.
“He was an all-around good guy. He was a great cop. He retired as a detective lieutenant and anybody who knew him fell in love with him,” she said.
“He helped everybody. He liked to teach people how to fish and how to hunt. Nobody ever had a negative thing to say about him.”
She was at a loss to understand what spurred the sudden shift in her husband, noting that he had survived a battle with lung cancer and doctors were hopeful of a full recovery.
“He recently had a lung removed in January… We went to a follow-up and a scan in June. Everything was great. The surgeon didn’t even want to see him. He was doing very well,” she said.
The attorney general’s shooting response team is investigating the incident.