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New Jersey PBA honors officers in Washington Township shootout

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

CLIFFVIEW PILOT EXCLUSIVE : It was a proud moment for five Pascack Valley police officers who received valor awards from the New Jersey state PBA in connection with a shootout in Washington Township earlier this year.

Locals 206 and 207 also received unit citations on Saturday in Atlantic City. The state-level awards are unprecedented for several involved.

“My definition of a hero,” one fellow officer said, “well, just read the names on the plaques.”

“These guys were warriors — ordinary people who were called to do an extraordinary job,” another officer said after a terrifying night that forever changed several lives.

What turned into a half-hour cat-and-mouse-game took place on what began
as otherwise quiet shifts in Washington Township, Hillsdale and Westwood on Friday, March 11.

Then, around 1:30 a.m., a heroin addict man who associates later said talked of commiting “suicide by cop” summoned police to his parents’ Washington Township home on a report of a domestic dispute.

Washington Township, not even three square miles, has barely 10,000 people, in the northeast corner of Bergen County, bordered b y similarly quiet bedroom communities in the Pascack Valley, such as Woodcliff Lake, Hillsdale and Emerson. Domestic disputes can at times get ugly, but usually not deadly.

This night proved just how dangerous being a cop anywhere can be.

Two veteran township officers pulled up
to 568 Jackson Road and were on the porch when the man’s mother suddenly shouted from inside.

“Don’t come in here,” she said. “He’s got a gun and he’s going to kill you.”

As they stopped in their tracks, a blast rang out — whizzing just past them and smashing the window of their patrol car.

Robert Ellis, armed with a shotgun, then came out the front door.

The officers tried to talk with him, but Ellis, 48, fired a second shot,
sources with direct knowledge of the incident told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . Then he ran into the woods.

The officers retreated to either side of the house, hit the ground, and began crawling on their stomachs across nearby lawns. By then, two officers from Hillsdale and one from Westwood showed up. They got down, as well.

“They didn’t know where he was at the time,” a source said. “They showed restraint. They put themselves in grave, grave danger by not shooting.”

Ellis popped out and times before running back into the house. He emerged again, just as one of the officers who’d been crawling along the ground stood up.

The officer was 20 feet from Ellis, who turned, pointed and pulled the trigger.

The point-blank blast somehow missed the officer, who fired. At least one other officer shot, as well.

Hit several times, Ellis fell into the bushes in front of his parents’ house.

His rifle “still had three rounds left,” a source told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

Ellis was living with his parents only because his own home — on Laurel Avenue in Ridgewood — was burned down in December after a lighted cigarette was left unattended, sources told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . The two took him in, even bought him his own flower shop in Glen Rock, even though he once pushed his mother down the stairs.

Inside the house, investigators later found 27 long rifles.

Days after the shooting,
CLIFFVIEW PILOT turned up a Facebook photo of Ellis’s son pointing an assault weapon, with a comment from his father urging him to “shoot laying down or in a squatting position” and “aim for the chest… unless they have thick body armor…  [T]hen you might need to aim for the head.”

A close family friend also told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that Ellis had predicted that he would “go out in a blaze of glory,” leading some to suspect suicide-by-cop.

“Bob Ellis was as evil as they come,” the friend said. “The officer [who] shot him is a hero.

“Tell [the officer] that.”

The New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association did just that.

( EDITOR’S NOTE: The officers involved have been and will remain unidentified in accounts of the shooting on CLIFFVIEW PILOT , no matter how other media treat the situation. They have families, young children. They have endured a horrific ordeal, are heroes of the finest order, and have been recognized by their colleagues and government officials as such. Many know, admire and respect them. Their names need not turn up in an online search. )

Jerry DeMarco (Publisher/Editor)

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