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Gloucester Township Deputy Police Chief David Harkins credits their armored vehicle with saving officer's lives. Courier-Post

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GLOUCESTER TWP. - An overnight standoff marked by multiple bursts of gunfire ended with the discovery of a man’s body inside a Sicklerville home Thursday morning, police said.

The tense confrontation began shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday when officers responded to 911 calls reporting gunshots outside a Hampshire Road townhome, said Gloucester Township police.

It ended more than 13 hours later — after police had come under fire, almost 20 neighbors had been evacuated and many residents of the Brittany Woods development were directed to shelter in place.

Classes were canceled Thursday in the Gloucester Township and Black Horse Pike Regional school districts because of the incident.

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Police, who identified the dead man only as a 24-year-old, said an assault rifle and a handgun were found inside the home.

A woman in the house was unharmed.

Officers did not fire their weapons during the barricade situation, Gloucester Township Police Chief Harry Earle said at a news conference.

The dead man’s injuries “were not caused by law enforcement’s actions,” he said.

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“The officers showed great restraint,” said Deputy Chief David Harkins, who noted the department’s armored rescue vehicle had come under fire.

He said officers inside the vehicle “reported numerous times that they heard gunfire, they heard the rounds striking the vehicle.” No officers were injured.

“It’s a real life-saving piece of equipment,” Harkins said of the armored vehicle, noting officers previously might have sought uncertain protection “behind a car or a tree.”

"That's always fearful when you have officers in harm's way,” he said.

The Camden County Sheriff’s Office also dispatched an armored vehicle to the scene.

The incident is being investigated by the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and township police.

According to a police account, officers responding to the 911 calls “heard gunfire and proceeded to take a cover position” outside 10 Hampshire Road.

Additional on-duty officers and the township’s Special Response Team arrived at the home, along with the police department’s armored vehicle.

“The subject then fired more than 15 rounds (at the armored vehicle), causing damage to the windshield and numerous markings to the armor,” said the police account.

Police negotiators tried to arrange a surrender “but were met with negative results and at times additional gunfire,” said the account.

“Telephone contact was made with the male subject and after numerous conversations he refused to answer the phone,” it continued.

Earle said the man was "associated with" the home, but could not say if he lived there.

According to the account, one of the armored vehicles was used to remove the home’s front door after about 10 hours of attempted negotiations. 

It said two “search robots” provided by the Camden County Sheriff’s Office “were used to attempt to clear the residence.”

Members of the township's SWAT team and the Sheriff’s Office emergency response unit entered the building and located the two occupants around 9:30 a.m. Thursday, according to Earle.

The teams previously had used the armored vehicle to evacuate residents from adjacent homes to the Erial Fire Station.

People living in a surrounding area of about three square blocks were asked to remain in their homes.

A large number of law enforcement officers and emergency personnel from multiple jurisdictions responded to the scene. A parking lot at nearby Timber Creek Regional High School served as a staging area, with officers coming and going through the increasingly cold night.

Both Earle and Mayor David Mayer praised the first responders who risked their lives to resolve the situation.

“I’m very proud of the men and women of the Gloucester Township Police Department and the emergency responses that we performed,” Mayer said.

Earle also praised the cooperation of Brittany Woods residents.

"The community obviously has been very supportive," he said during a 4 a.m. news briefing.

Jim Walsh; @jimwalsh_cp; 856-486-2646; jwalsh@gannettnj.com

 

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