AN OPEN LETTER: To the officers who responded while Robert Ellis blasted away with his rifle the other night: You are all heroes. Not only to neighbors and Ellis’s parents, whom he put in grave danger. You are also heroes to family members terrorized by this heroin addict who, just a short time ago, confided that he intended to “go out in a blaze of glory.”
That’s right: Someone who knew Ellis (photo, below) told me he’d planned this all along. He just didn’t explain it. But now we know: You were only filling the pre-determined role he put you in. He even placed the call that brought you there.
As happens when you’ve been in the public eye as long as I have, I know someone close to the Ellis family. And this person says there are people right now who want you to know how grateful they are.
“Bob Ellis was as evil as they come,” she said. “The officer [who] shot him is a hero.
“Tell [the officer] that.”
It was just a short time ago, this person told me, that Ellis made his then-vague “blaze of glory” comment.
Ellis’s three 20-something children, who must suffer the shame of their father’s madness, can perhaps find closure. But those of you who responded will always live with the memory of that awful night. It’s small comfort, I know, but at least he won’t be able to hurt anyone ever again, especially those who loved him most.
Unfortunately, Robert Ellis left you no choice.
Not when he’d blown out the window of the first police cruiser that pulled up to his parents’ house — after he himself summoned you there (it’s on the 911 tape). Not when he came out from around the house like Tony Montana, trying to take as many police officers’ lives as he could before the inevitable fusillade came, leaving his lifeless body in the bushes of his parents’ front lawn.
They provided for him, those two, after his wife fled the madness a decade ago. They bought him his own pet shop in Glen Rock, rather than see him go on welfare. It didn’t last long.
His mother even excused him after he pushed her down the steps, and supported him during his frequent mental hospital stays.
Then the elderly pair took Ellis in with them after someone left a cigarette burning in his Ridgewood apartment and nearly burned the place to the ground.
Ellis repaid his quiet, prideful parents by first unleashing unholy terror — on an otherwise quiet night on their otherwise quiet street. He finished it by turning their house into an Amityville-style curiosity.
“He was a monster,” the close family friend told me. “That’s something that everyone should know.”
At a time when it seems officers of every stripe everywhere are literally under fire, at a time when the bully elected to govern our state would inexplicably try to portray you and your brethren as selfish and insensitive, you weren’t thinking about maybe having to take a second job to be able to cover your family’s health insurance. You weren’t calculating the hit your pension would suffer if this paper tiger in Trenton gets his way.
You were doing your duty, fulfilling a sworn oath to protect us all by any and all means necessary, holding your own fears at bay, focusing all of your energy. And in that moment of truth, you were able to do what no critic of your supremely noble profession would have the guts to even imagine.
To which we say: Thank you.
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