2 Trenton Officers Shot in Violent Domestic Dispute

A domestic violence call turned deadly when a suspect opened fire on two Trenton Homicide Detectives Thursday morning.

The officers fired back, killing the suspect, who authorities have identified as Eric McNeil, but not before they were both wounded by the gunman.

"We heard four gunshots...And then three more after a pause," said a witness, who would only identify herself as Sandy N.

The detectives were at a home at 59 Hobart Avenue for the second time -- following an overnight domestic violence call from McNeil's ex-girlfriend -- when the shootout began.

One of the officers was hit in the right shoulder and right lower abdomen. The second was shot in the torso and abdomen, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office. Both were said to be in "good spirits" on their way to Capital Health Regional Medical Center.

"...while they were on the way to the hospital, they were conscious and talked," said Angelo Onofri, First Assistant Prosecutor for Mercer County.

Jim Letts, a 15-year veteran of the force was operated on earlier this morning. He is recovering and "doing well,"  according to Trenton Police Superintendent Ralph Rivera, Jr. He is expected to be released within the next few days.

Edgar Rios, a 30-year-veteran of the force,  was also in surgery after being shot in the torso and abdomen. Two bullets penetrated, causing internal bleeding from his stomach and pancreas. Doctors were able to stop that bleeding, but they will need to go back on Friday and repair other injures, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, councilwoman for the East Ward, told NBC10. Rios (pictured below) is said to be in critical, but stable condition.

In 2007, Rios was Trenton's officer of the year. He is part of a law inforcement family. His brother Bobby is also a detective in Trenton and he has a niece and cousin who are city officers, according to NJ.com

“I want everyone to pray for our officers,” Rivera said. They do a thankless job out here every day. As you know, we’re understaffed. I could tell you a million things that have gone on here with our police department but one thing I can tell you is that these two officers were excellent officers and they’re in our prayers.”

The shooting comes just three days after Trenton Mayor Tony Mack announced that violent crime is on the rise in New Jersey's capital city. Mack blames the jump in crime on 2011's police lay-offs following a state funding cut that left 100 officers -- or 10-percent of Trenton's force -- without jobs.

During an early afternoon news conference, New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said state and local law enforcement teams are working on two key initiatives to “to combat what is a terrible epidemic and plague of gun violence in the streets of Trenton.”

One of those initiative's would be to make sure that the most serious offenders do the most significant amount of time.

"The war-zone conditions that we see in this city, that break our hearts in this city, are intolerable," Hoffman said.

The second would put uniformed, State Police officers, on the streets of Trenton to help suppress gun violence and gather intelligence and data for long-term investigations.

Rivera, however, says that in domestic abuse cases, manpower may not change the outcome.

“As we know in domestic violence situations, you could have a million officers out here, but in these domestic cases, you can’t stop them if someone is out to hurt someone else.”

And the suspect, it seems, was determined.

Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini said the officers were returning the ex-girlfriend to her home around 8:43 a.m. -- after spending hours at the station filing out a report -- as the McNeil was come out of the house.

The victim said "That's him," according to Bocchini, and McNeil (pictured right) immediately opened fire, hitting Rios and Letts.

The detectives returned fire, killing the suspect.
All this after the suspect broke into the victim's home, beat her up and killed her three-week-old puppy.

"The victim says that the suspect broke into her house, physically assaulted her, ransacked the house, grabbed the dog and stabbed it," Bocchini said in a news conference late Thursday afternoon

The original domestic violence call came in at 2:30 a.m., at which time the officers brought the victim to the station.

The victim was uninjured during the shootout, but was treated at the hospital for injuries sustained during the domestic attack.

Police confirm the Hobart Ave. home is one they've visited numerous times in the past.


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