Investigators release video of knife-wielding man fatally shot by police inside N.J. home

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A man who was fatally shot by a police officer in Old Bridge earlier this year was holding a knife at the time and ran down a staircase with the weapon in his hands before the officer opened fire, according to video footage released by investigators Tuesday.

A statement from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, which is investigating of the shooting, said police responded to a 911 call regarding a dispute at 3:09 p.m. on April 24 at a home on Woodland Avenue in the Laurence Harbor section of town.

Old Bridge police Officer Christopher Hammel was met at the door by an unidentified woman, who told him 26-year-old Luke Mendez was upstairs, according to police body-camera footage released by the Attorney General’s Office.

The video shows at least two other people inside the house, and they begin having a discussion about whether or not the woman was justified in placing cameras inside the home. One of the other residents can be heard saying the woman was “threatening (Mendez) with the cops.”

In an audio of the 911 call provided by the Attorney General’s Office, the woman can be heard telling police she wants Mendez out of the house.

As the officer calls up the steps for Mendez, he appeared at the top of the staircase and is holding a large knife, the video footage shows. Hammel told him to put it down and when Mendez does not, the officer pulls out his gun and tells him to “relax.”

“Put the knife down and get down on the floor,” Hammel can be heard saying in the body-cam video. “You need to put it down and let me talk to you.”

He asked Mendez why he is upset, but he does not answer the officer, who continues to try to persuade him to drop the knife for about two minutes before Mendez suddenly ran down the stairs with the knife in his hand.

Hammel fired three shots as Mendez reached the bottom of the steps, the video shows.

Hammel moved the knife away from Mendez, called for backup and medics, and can be seen placing his hands on the gunshot wounds before the video stops.

The video blurred out the faces of several people in the house and parts of the shooting scene.

Mendez was taken to Old Bridge Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 4:47 p.m., authorities said.

The Attorney General’s Office investigates any incident in which a person is killed by a police officer or dies while in police custody. Once the investigation is over, the case will be presented to a grand jury, which will determine if the officer was justified in his decision or if criminal charges should be filed.

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