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Township Police Justified in Fatally Shooting Man, State Concludes

The Division of Criminal Justice found that police acted appropriately when they shot 48-year-old Robert Ellis to death in Washington Township last year.

The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice found no wrongdoing during its review of the by Washington Township Police last year, according to a letter from Division Director Stephen Taylor.

Police killed 48-year-old Ridgewood resident Robert Ellis at his parents' Washington Township home early in the morning of March 12, 2011 after Ellis fired at a pair of Washington Township Police officers and hit their patrol vehicle.

Township Police Chief Randy Ciocco said the officers tried to resolve the situation without shooting Ellis. 

"They put themselves at risk by not shooting to kill earlier," Ciocco said.

Taylor wrote that he agreed with Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli's "determination to administratively close this matter."

Ciocco told Patch he believed the state made the right decision.

"We knew right from the start that the officers on that call did everything they were supposed to do," Ciocco said. "They did everything by the book."

Ellis had been staying with his parents in Washington Township after a fire in December 2010 left his own home uninhabitable. 

Neighbors reported hearing an argument earlier in the night of the shooting. Around 1:30 a.m., they heard "numerous" rifle shots and called police.

After Ellis shot at the Washington Township officers, police from Westwood and Hillsdale also responded to the scene. Many area departments also came to help, according to Ciocco.

"We got mutual aid from many of the departments in northern Bergen County," Ciocco said. "They ran to our aid that night and it's something my deparment and the officers themselves will never forget."

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Jim Leggate at Jim.Leggate@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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