NJ - The Wil Wild West

Discussion in 'Mountain Bikes' started by Ride-A-Lot, Apr 5, 2006.

  1. Ride-A-Lot

    Ride-A-Lot Guest

    Drinking, quads, and shooting up signs. Ha! I don't need to move to
    the west coast for it anymore.


    Prosecutor faults park police in shooting of tribal member
    Officers were unjustified in leaving state land, he says
    Wednesday, April 05, 2006
    BY ANA M. ALAYA AND BRIAN T. MURRAY
    Star-Ledger Staff

    A "major, major systemic breakdown" within the ranks of the State Park
    Police culminated in one of their officers shooting a citizen on
    county-owned land in Mahwah last weekend, the Bergen County prosecutor
    said yesterday.

    Prosecutor John Molinelli said the officers were not justified in
    leaving state property and should have informed local police when they
    moved into their jurisdiction. But he stopped short of charging them
    with any infractions and asked Lisa Jackson, commissioner of the state
    Department of Environmental Protection, to investigate. The 100-member
    park police force is part of the DEP's Division of Parks and Forestry.

    Emil Mann of Monroe, N.Y., a 44-year-old member of the Ramapough
    Lenape Indian Nation, was critically wounded Saturday after a
    confrontation in the woods with three members of the State Park Police.

    Authorities have identified the shooter as Chad Walder, a 34-year-old
    rookie park police officer and former juvenile corrections officer.
    Walder, a Coast Guard reservist, was on active duty after 9/11, serving
    at Sandy Hook from Sept. 14, 2001, until Sept. 5, 2003.

    The shooting, in a remote area inaccessible by car, has served to
    underscore the isolation and alienation of the Ramapough people, who
    maintain a distinct lifestyle within the rapidly suburbanizing township
    of Mahwah, in northernmost Bergen County. They have lived in their own
    settlement for more than 200 years.

    Several dozen members of the tribe were in the vicinity of the shooting
    scene, a long-abandoned goat farm often used for tribal recreation, but
    have not come forward as eyewitnesses, authorities say.

    Although authorities believed the officers pursued Mann and possibly
    others because they were riding all-terrain vehicles in an area where
    ATVs are prohibited, the provocation for the resulting fracas and
    shooting remains unclear. A cousin of the wounded man, Otis Mann, was
    arrested on aggravated assault charges at the scene.

    Emil Mann, who was shot in the chest and leg, remained in critical
    condition last night at Hackensack University Medical Center.

    Meanwhile, Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli said yesterday that he's
    learned of another incident that may have influenced events. Earlier
    Saturday, two of the officers who pursued Emil Mann arrested a different
    tribe member for wearing a holstered pistol, he said.

    "Whether that played into the state of mind of the residents and police
    officers is for someone else to determine," Batelli said. "I'm sure that
    the word got out."

    Like Molinelli, the police chief was critical of the park police.

    Mahwah police enjoy a rapport with the Ramapough tribe, he said, and
    understand their strong ties to the land. When park police pursued
    tribal members, without notifying his force, they "jeopardized the
    safety of everyone," Batelli said.

    "You're dealing with a culture, a group that believes in keeping
    problems to themselves," he said. "Some referred to the officers as
    outsiders coming into their area."

    Still, Batelli conceded that the officers may not have known whose land
    they were on.

    "There are various signs, although the signs are very frequently shot up
    and torn down," he said. "When the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office
    went back there to process the crime scene, there were literally
    hundreds if not thousands of rounds of every caliber on the ground."

    Besides Walder, other officers in the vicinity of the shooting were Lt.
    Kelly Gottheiner and Officer Kenneth Kriete, authorities say. Walder's
    wife, Lorna, a park police officer, was also in the vicinity,
    authorities said. All four were stationed at nearby Ringwood State Park;
    Gottheiner was the superior officer of the group.

    The four are now on paid leave, said Elaine Makatura, spokeswoman for
    the DEP. Chad Walder, who earns $54,131 a year, joined the DEP in May
    2005 after a seven-year stint in the state juvenile corrections field.

    Yesterday the two Ramapough tribe members arrested over the weekend made
    appearances in Mahwah Municipal Court before Judge Anthony Gianni.

    Otis Mann came first, appearing in handcuffs and a prison jumpsuit. As
    his wife and daughter sobbed audibly in the courtroom, his lawyer,
    Steven Schefers of Hawthorne, entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of his
    client. The daughter, Kaitlin Mann, 17, wore a T-shirt with the words
    "Let Otis Go."

    Gianni scheduled a bail reduction hearing for tomorrow. Otis Mann
    remains jailed on $100,000 bail.

    Then came Harold Dennison Jr., the man arrested for allegedly wearing a
    pistol on his hip. He was released Saturday on a recognizance bond of
    $10,000 and walked into the hearing yesterday on his own. He contested
    the allegations against him.

    According to court documents, the park police officers who arrested
    Dennison were Kriete and Chad Walder.

    After the hearing, Anthony Van Dunk, the Ramapoughs' tribal leader,
    expressed confidence in the Bergen County prosecutor.

    "We feel (he) is going to use everything in his power to find out the
    truth of the situation," Van Dunk said.

    Van Dunk has said witnesses to the shooting told him Gottheiner slapped
    and pepper-sprayed Otis Mann's daughter, prompting the father to grab
    Gottheiner's baton and attack the officers. While some of the ATV riders
    left, Emil Mann stayed to break up the fight and was shot, he said.

    But the prosecutor's office supplied a different account: Molinelli said
    Gottheiner stopped Otis Mann as he was riding his ATV and an argument
    ensued; Mann grabbed Gottheiner's baton and tried to attack her. Emil
    Mann's shooting was a separate incident in the same vicinity, the
    prosecutor said.

    Staff writer Mary Jo Patterson contributed to this report.


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