Trenton Community Reacts To Shooting That Wounded Officers

Trenton Community Reacts To Shooting That Wounded Officers

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A neighbor talks about Officer Rios. A neighbor talks about Officer Rios.
TRENTON, N.J. -

"It was scary. You just heard bang, bang, bang, bang."

That's how witnesses described the violent confrontation on Hobart Avenue on Thursday morning. The shoot out left two veteran Trenton Police detectives wounded and a suspect dead from gunshot wounds.

"When they got out of the car. The suspect immediately pulled out a gun and began firing at the two officers," said Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini at the crime scene.

The gun battle erupted when 15 year veteran Detective James Letts and 30 year veteran Detective Edgar Rios approached domestic violence suspect Eric McNeil at 59 Hobart Avenue after his girlfriend pointed him out to them.

"A police officer never knows what they're going to walk into in a domestic violence situation," Bocchini explained.

"These two officers are excellent officers, and they're in our prayers," added Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera.  

The two detectives were raced to the hospital and into surgery, Letts suffering from a gun shot to the shoulder, Rios critical from two gunshot wounds to the back and abdomen.  

"I want everyone to pray for our officers. They do a thankless job out here every day," Rivera said. "We ask the public for your prayer. For your support for the family. Because it's greatly appreciated and it's what's helping them to a speedy recovery."

"It just shows the layoffs that happened a couple years back. We need those cops back. We need those officers back," said Janie Barnes who works right around the corner. She refers to the layoff of 109 police officers a couple of years ago.

Neighbors say the suspect had been acting strange for several days now. Police say he shot his girlfriends dog Wednesday night and assaulted her.

"He was very emotional for the last couple weeks," said neighbor Alex Rivera. "He lost his brother too a couple weeks ago."

Eric McNeil's body was removed from the scene just before noon by the Mercer County Medical Examiner. He had just gotten out of prison in May on robbery and weapons charges. He had served for four years.

Rios was the 2007 Officer of the Year in Trenton. He has several relatives on the police force here. Neighbors say he's a very good cop who worked this area for years as a patrolman before he became a detective. Detective Rios also worked in the Homicide Unit.

"Officer Rios. He's a good cop," says Alex Rivera. "Everybody know him in the area, he's very good cop."

George Muschal knows Detective Edgar Rios. As Trenton city council president, today he rushed to the hospital to learn Rios' fate.

"He's fighting for his own life right now," he told the press after getting to the hospital. "He's got some life-threatening problems."

Rios, a 30 year homicide detective, was rushed to the Capital Health Trauma Center around 9:00. Letts is out of surgery and resting, but Rios likely faces a much longer haul.

"Some internal bleeding, they wanted to stop the internal bleeding from the stomach, the pancreas. That has been stabilized; they want him to rest," updated Verlina Reynolds-Jackson of the Trenton City Council.

The trauma center became the gathering point for cops and elected officials, all fearful that the Trenton slashing of cops in the wake of state cutbacks has turned the capital into the wild wild west.

"We lost 109 officers and we're running on skeleton crews going out there, which is creating a problem in the city of Trenton, " says George Muschal, Trenton City Council President.

Rios, who investigates murders, was working a domestic case due to the cuts. Detective Edgar Rios, a one-time cop of the year, has fought crime here for a lifetime. Now he'll fight, just to survive.

"He was a very good officer when he was on street patrol. And he was an excellent detective, couldn't get a better detective. He worked homicides. All these homicides we have in Trenton, he was working these homicides," says Muschal.

Prosecutors tonight are investigating how suspect Erin McNeil got his hands on the .38 caliber revolver that he shot officers with, four months after getting out of prison.

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