Less than a day after NBCNewYork.com was first to report that a police officer who was shot and wounded near his station house might have been followed, an Essex County official said "We're looking at anyone he might have pulled over, anyone he might have arrested, anyone he might had had contact with."
Essex County Chief of Detectives Anthony Ambrose confirmed that Gerald Veneziano, a three year veteran of the suburban Fairfield Police Department, told investigators from his hospital bed that he believes he was being followed prior to the incident.
Veneziano was shot six times Saturday night, just a block away from the police station where he was heading to work.
"We can confirm that he did fire approximately 13 rounds at the suspects," said Acting Essex Prosecutor Robert Laurino, although lawmen don't know yet if he hit the suspects or their car.
Laurino and Ambrose also revealed for the first time that several shell casings from the suspects' weapon or weapons were found at the scene, though they would not say how many or what caliber of gun it was.
Veneziano has been "in and out of consciousness," according to Laurino and is due for more surgery. But he was awake enough Monday so that Laurino could say today "We can confirm that he reported he was followed and believed to have been targeted."
Because he can't talk with a tube running down his throat, Veneziano was writing down fragments of information through a drug-induced haze.
But who would have done it? Pure revenge? Lawmen don't know, though one source said they are suspicious about a gang arrest he made late last year, and that this could have been a 'hit job.'
As to the suspects' car, Ambrose said black is the 'likely' color. And the list has been expanded to include the Nitro, the Magnum and the Caliber--all made by Dodge.
And while the Prosecutor's Office was quick Monday to correct weekend reports that Officer Veneziano had phoned in the license plate number(he hadn't, he had just asked if a check could be run), they now say that he was able to tell a fellow officer before the shootout that it was a New Jersey plate.
While Veneziano remains in critical but stable condition at UMDNJ with 'life threatening injuries,' there is optimism he will make it.
"We are waiting until he becomes stronger before we can get more information from him," said Acting Prosecutor Laurino.
The reward fund for information leading to the capture and conviction of the suspects is now up to $45,000. A Facebook page in support of the officre has thousands of members and is still growing.
A blood drive in Fairfield is scheduled for next Thursday.