The Attorney General’s Office today released surveillance footage related to the March 20th shooting at Panera Bread in Princeton during which state troopers fatally shot Scott L. Mielentz, 56, of Lawrenceville, N.J.
The shooting remains under investigation by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team. However, certain records were released today in response to formal requests under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act and common law. The records include footage from Panera’s surveillance system, 911 recordings, Computer-Aided Dispatch reports, and information about the weapons involved.
The CAD reports and 911 recordings include a 911 call received by the Princeton Police Department at 10:28 a.m. from a man reporting “There’s a guy with a gun at Panera.” Thereafter, for more than two hours, law enforcement officers from the New Jersey State Police, FBI and Princeton Police Department negotiated with Mielentz, but he continued to hold a black pistol in his hand. At approximately 2:54 p.m., two members of the New Jersey State Police TEAMS (Technical Emergency and Mission Specialists) Unit, armed with M4 rifles, fired at Mielentz, striking him in the head and upper torso. The video shows that immediately prior to the fatal shooting, Mielentz, who had been holding the pistol near his waist in his right hand, raised the pistol and pointed it in the direction of the officers. Mielentz was pronounced dead at the scene. The pistol in Mielentz’s hand was later determined to be a black Crosman PFM BB Pistol.
In New Jersey, all investigations of police deadly force incidents are governed by the Attorney General's Independent Prosecutor Directive, issued in 2006 and strengthened in 2015, which establishes strict procedures for conducting such investigations. It requires the Attorney General to review all deadly force investigations, and in some cases conduct them as well. In this case, the investigation is being conducted directly by the Attorney General’s SRT.
The directive further provides that unless the undisputed facts indicate the use of force was justified under the law, the circumstances of the incident must ultimately be presented to a grand jury, composed of 23 civilians, for its independent review.