NJ officers stabbed, successfully resolve barricaded suspect call
The officers, who were stabbed in the face and head, called in the department's special response team and a crisis negotiator
By Ken Serrano and Joshua Chung
Asbury Park Press
LAKEWOOD, N.J. — It's the nightmare policing scenario that can often end with lethal force.
Last Saturday, two Lakewood police officers responded to a call about a 25-year-old man who had barricaded himself in a room in his mother's house. He then stabbed the officers in the face and head with a 12-inch knife, authorities said.
Rather than using their firearms to stop the attacker, township Police Officers Joseph Rusk and Matthew McAvoy choose a less-lethal path.
Injured from the cuts, the officers left the house, then called in the department's special response team and a crisis negotiator. Police talked with the suspect, Stanley Williams, for hours, but he refused to leave his bedroom. After a seven-hour standoff, police entered the home and found Williams in a stairwell, holding what appeared to be a gun. After Williams went back to his room, police lobbed pepper spray through a bedroom window, and Williams surrendered, unarmed. The "gun" turned out to be a realistic-looking pellet gun.
The officers' and department's response stands in contrast to a nation on edge from highly publicized deadly police shootings in Ohio, Minnesota and elsewhere this month. The Lakewood encounter demonstrates how even a situation involving a weapon and attacks can end peacefully.
“I really have to commend them on the restraint they showed in that situation,” said Keith Taylor, an assistant adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Taylor worked for the New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit for a decade — an elite team of officers trained to deal with some of the city’s most intractable emergencies. They handle thousands of mental health calls a year and those seldom end with lethal force by police, he said.
As part of his instruction, Taylor spent two weeks with psychiatrists trained as actors who played out scenarios involving different types of mental health calls and how to deescalate them. The actors stood on one side of a door in front of the classroom and the officers being trained on the other.
That training, and some simple tools, were part of the basis of the unit’s success with mental health calls, he said. One such tool was a Y-bar, a y-shaped stick used to pin people against a wall.
When dealing with a situation like Lakewood’s “You size up, you assess, you get as much information on the individual as possible — anything that can help you understand them, like the individual’s propensity for violence,” Taylor said.
Neither Lakewood Police Chief Gregory Meyer nor department spokesman Capt. Greg Staffordsmith would comment in detail on the incident or the Special Response Team. They referred the call to Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer.
“The extraordinary efforts of all involved are to be commended,” Billhimer said. “The injured officers should be OK and we are all thankful that this situation was resolved in the matter that it was.”
Staffordsmith said Lakewood’s diversity helps police during responses to tense situations.
“So, we are exposed to all different kinds of experiences,” he said. "This could have easily gone the other way."
Police had initially been called to the house by Williams' mother, who said her son was acting erratically. A crisis negotiator for Lakewood, Sgt. Peter Aakjer, was brought to the scene at Lisa Robyn Circle Saturday. Also called out was Lakewood’s Special Response Team, a small SWAT team within the department.
Aajker made contact with Williams. And the exchange became intense and extensive, police said.
Williams was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, the attempted murder of two police officers and weapons offenses. He remains at Ocean County Jail.
Since 2015, 12 people at the Shore were killed by police gunfire. At least eight of the men involved were either suicidal or acting erratically. In several, police officers were either attacked or about to be, one following a deadly rampage.
Among those killed during police encounters were Hasani Best and James P. Manzo, who both died in Asbury Park. Best, 39, was shot and killed by a city police officer Aug. 21, following a 45-minute standoff with officers responding to a domestic dispute. Police say he was shot after he threatened officers with a knife, which he had refused to drop.
Manzo came at officers with a pair of scissors in July 2019, police said.
The cases have not yet been reviewed by a grand jury.
(c)2021 the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.)