Gov. Chris Christie has asked his attorney general to investigate the state's visit to the home of a man who had posted online a photo of his son holding a military-style rifle, saying news reports raised "troubling questions'' about how the case was handled.
The state's child welfare agency and local police went to the Carneys Point home of Shawn Moore on March 14, following what police say were anonymous calls expressing concern about the safety of a child.
Moore has said he believes he was investigated solely because of the photo he shared online of his son, Josh, holding the gun he got for his 11th birthday. The weapon was a .22-caliber rifle made to look like an assault weapon. He says caseworkers were aggressive and the visit unwarranted.
No charges were filed.
In a March 22 letter, the governor asked Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to determine "whether all applicable laws were appropriately followed, and to take any remedial, investigative or other actions that may be required.''
"The public reports of this matter raise troubling questions concerning the facts and circumstances surrounding the investigation, the manner in which the investigation was conducted, and the procedures followed by law enforcement and the Division of Child Protection and Permanency,'' the governor wrote. The Christie administration provided a copy of the letter Wednesday.
The state welfare agency, citing confidentiality requirements, has not commented on its visit to the Moore home. Agency officials said only that caseworkers may request police to accompany them on visits if they have reason to be concerned about their personal safety.
Moore's attorney, Evan Nappen, said Wednesday he believes the public outcry over the case led to the quick decision by the Christie administration to investigate. He said he did not request the probe.
"We welcome the investigation so that something like this hopefully doesn't happen again,'' Nappen said. "There's this really great reason why there's no charges and the case is closed, and that's because my client didn't do anything wrong."
Moore's account of the visit to his home in Carneys Point, a town of 8,000 about 30 miles southwest of Philadelphia, had riled up gun rights activists.
He said authorities wanted to see his weapons, but he denied them access because they didn't have a search warrant. He first posted a comment about the incident on a gun rights website and within days was appearing with his son on a Fox News talk show and elsewhere.
Police in Carneys Point have defended their response, stating at no time did they attempt to unlawfully enter the home or otherwise infringe on Moore's constitutional rights.
"In this case, the safety concern was regarding weapons and ammunition accessible to this child. In light of some of the recent school shootings across our nation, the Carneys Point Police Department takes these types of calls seriously,'' Chief Robert DiGregorio said in a statement issued last week.
The chief noted that Moore is a member of a local sportsmen club to which several officers also belong, and "we respect our residents' right to own firearms."
The child welfare agency has been under years of court-monitoring and has been criticized in several cases where children who died or were in peril were not checked on.