HARDWICK TOWNSHIP, NJ (Warren County) – An investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice into a police-involved shooting involving a New Jersey state trooper that occurred in Hardwick Township in 2018 determined that a New York man died as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.
The shooting occurred at around 11:35 p.m. in the area of Old Mine Road. Gregory, 47, of Coram, NY was being sought by police in connection with an incident that day in Middle Island, NY, in which he fired a rifle at a group of teens, striking a vehicle window and causing a 15-year-old boy to be cut by flying glass.
The Suffolk County Police Department had issued alerts about Gregory and his pickup truck, including alerts that he was armed and that he planned to engage with police to commit “suicide by cop.” Members of the New Jersey State Police located Gregory in his truck on Old Mine Road and were attempting to arrest him at the time of the shooting.
Under the Attorney General’s Independent Prosecutor Directive, the use of deadly force by the state trooper was investigated by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team, made up of investigators from the Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey State Police Homicide Unit, all of whom operate independently of their usual chain of command and report directly to the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice or a designee.
As a result of the investigation, Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice determined that presentation of the police-involved shooting to a grand jury was not required under the directive because the undisputed facts indicated the use of force was justified under the law. The investigation included numerous witness interviews, a video recording of the shooting, forensic analysis of the scene, and other evidence.
The events leading to the shooting began when the Suffolk County Police Department in New York State alerted the New Jersey state police that they were tracking a vehicle and seeking the arrest of its driver, who had shot at a 15-year-old boy in Middle Island, New York. The police bulletin out of New York reported that the individual was armed with a rifle, was suicidal, and might attempt to commit “suicide by cop.” It included a description of the suspect and his vehicle, a white GMC Sierra.
Gregory’s pickup truck was first located by state police on Interstate 80 westbound and was observed by a trooper as it exited the highway onto Old Mine Road in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. In total, four troopers and a National Park Ranger converged on Old Mine Road to locate Gregory.
Three of the troopers left their vehicles to search for Gregory and his vehicle on foot. The trooper who shot Gregory, Trooper Gerald Dellagicoma, was in a marked troop car traveling north on Old Mine Road when Gregory passed him traveling southbound in the white GMC Sierra. Trooper Dellagicoma turned around to follow the pickup truck, which he recognized as fitting the description of the suspect vehicle. He activated his overhead lights and followed the pickup truck until it pulled into a cutoff off of Old Mine Road, where two troop cars were already parked. At that time, the three troopers searching on foot were emerging from the woods.
Troopers at the scene observed that Gregory was loading and handling a rifle in the parked pickup truck. Trooper Dellagicoma had exited his vehicle with a rifle and was positioned behind one troop car, while a second trooper was next to him behind a second troop car. At least three of the troopers, including Trooper Dellagicoma, shouted for Gregory to drop the gun and show his hands, but Gregory ignored numerous commands and never put his hands up.
Trooper Dellagicoma reported that he saw Gregory lean toward the passenger side and heard a gun being racked. Gregory then fired his gun. Trooper Dellagicoma subsequently fired his rifle four times at Gregory. No other officers fired a weapon. Trooper Dellagicoma stated to investigators that he believed the suspect was firing at him and the other troopers. The other officers reported hearing a single shot from the vehicle followed by several shots in rapid succession. A recording from the mobile video recorder in one of the troop cars confirmed that the trooper fired after a single shot was fired in Gregory’s vehicle. The troopers’ commands can also be heard clearly on the recording.
Gregory was pronounced dead at the scene. Crime scene investigators recovered two rifles from Gregory’s vehicle, a .30-caliber carbine rifle in the front seat area and a .30-06 rifle in the back seat, as well as numerous rounds of ammunition. Investigators recovered four fired cartridge casings from Trooper Dellagicoma’s rifle, a Colt M4 carbine rifle.
The autopsy performed on Gregory revealed that he suffered five gunshot wounds, including a self-inflicted wound to the chest from the .30-caliber carbine rifle recovered in his vehicle, and four wounds from shots fired by the trooper. The manner of death was ruled suicide. The medical examiner ruled that the gunshot wound to the chest, which caused devastating and unsurvivable injuries, was self-inflicted and preceded the other gunshot wounds inflicted by the state trooper.
This matter was reviewed by Director Allende in accordance with the Attorney General’s Independent Prosecutor Directive on Police Use-of-Force Investigations. After analyzing all of the facts and circumstances, Director Allende concluded that the trooper’s use of force was justified under the law. The facts and circumstances reasonably led the trooper to believe his actions were immediately necessary to protect himself and his fellow officers from death or serious bodily harm. An officer may use deadly force in New Jersey when the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.
A law enacted in January 2019 requires that the Attorney General’s Office conduct investigations of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody. This deadly force investigation preceded enactment of that law. However, it was conducted by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team in accordance with the Independent Prosecutor Directive, issued in 2006 and strengthened in 2015, which establishes strict procedures for conducting such investigations. The directive provides that unless the undisputed facts indicate the use of force was justified under the law, the circumstances of the incident must be presented to a grand jury, composed of 23 civilians, for its independent review.