GRAPHIC: Officer charged with manslaughter in shooting of man who called 911

MANTUA, N.J. (AP) — A police officer who fatally shot a homeowner who called 911 to report intruders outside her southern New Jersey home has been charged with murder.

The case against Mantua Township Police Officer Salvatore Aldrat was handed over to a state grand jury on Tuesday and unsealed Wednesday night. If found guilty, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

The charges stem from the Sept. 14, 2021, death of 49-year-old Charles Sharp III, who called 911 at 1:30 a.m. to report seeing two burglars in his backyard and that one of them had a gun. Aldrat and another Mantua officer, Cpl. Robert Layton soon responded to the house with a variety of vehicles.

Sharp, who remained on the phone with a 911 dispatcher, was standing in her yard when officers arrived. Leighton got the first one, and Aldrath arrived shortly after.

As Aldrath got out of his police car, Layton yelled, “He’s got a gun, right there,” according to a news release from the attorney general’s office. Aldratti then fired his service weapon several times, striking Sharpe several times. Sharpe was taken to a hospital, but was pronounced dead a short time later.

Authorities said Layton did not discharge his service weapon, and neither he nor Aldrat were injured. A replica .45-caliber firearm was found near Sharp, authorities said.

Investigators determined that Aldratti did not issue a verbal command or warning before shooting Sharpe.

“When residents call 911, they’re worried, they need help, they’re looking for protection — and they trust that the officers who answer their calls will respond accordingly and help them,” state Attorney General Matthew Platkin said in a statement. “Tragically, that didn’t happen here.”

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Graphic: Video contains material that may be disturbing to some.

A New Jersey police officer has been charged in the 2021 shooting death of a man who called 911 for help. (New Jersey Attorney General’s Office)

The case was heard by a grand jury, which has jurisdiction over cases where a civilian is killed during an encounter with law enforcement. The Office of Public Integrity and Accountability investigated the incident and presented its findings to a grand jury.

“It was less than five seconds after Officer Aldrath got out of his police car and when he opened fire on Mr. Sharp,” Thomas Eicher, the office’s executive director, said in a statement. “… The grand jury found that his conduct was not justified and warranted a return of the charge of manslaughter.”

Aldrath’s attorney, Christopher St. John, said he was surprised and disappointed by the indictment and his client was “extremely disappointed.”

“However, I am very confident that once the actual jury, the petit jury, is able to see all the evidence in its entirety, that Sally will be acquitted,” St. John said.

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