NJ Officer Shot, Saved By Bulletproof Vest: Mayor

An officer who was part of a SWAT team serving a warrant at the home of a suspected drug dealer was shot by the suspect, police say. Authorities are crediting a bulletproof vest with saving his life. Wale Aliyu reports.

(Published Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017)

A police officer who was part of a SWAT team delivering a warrant to a suspected drug dealer was shot Saturday as he entered the home, but saved by his bulletproof vest, officials said.

The suspect's 2-year-old daughter was in the home at the time, but wasn't injured, according to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

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In fact, no officers fired their weapons during the encounter, Baraka said. The SWAT team entered the apartment and arrested both of the toddler's parents without discharging their weapons.

"We were able to get a dangerous person off the street today without incident," Baraka said.

James Dennard, 22, of Newark, was in his basement apartment on Goodwin Avenue when a SWAT team arrived early Saturday morning, police Capt. Derrick Glenn said.

He didn't respond so police breached the door, police said. When they entered, Dennard fired a single shot up a stairwell, striking an officer in the chest, police said.

The officer, who has been with the department for 15 years, was saved by his bulletproof vest, Glenn said. He was evaluated and released from University Hospital.

Dennard was taken into custody and charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and many other charges, police said.

Letasia Phillips, the 24-year-old mother of the toddler, was arrested and charged with child endangerment among other charges.

The child was put in the custody of a relative who lived upstairs, police said.

The warrant was for narcotics and 40 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia was found in the apartment, Glenn said. The raid followed a 30-day investigation stemming from neighbor complaints.

Neighbors praised police for how they handled the incident.

"You've got to keep this community clean," Marc Wright said. "That was a great job."

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Correction: An earlier version of this story, based on information from Newark police, said the suspect shot through a door. Police later corrected that statement and said the officer opened the door before he was shot.