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Ocean County Prosecutor: Lutes Confirmed Dead

Aired April 10, 2002 - 10:39   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you quickly now to Toms River, New Jersey, I believe, is the site where this press conference is now being held. The Ocean County prosecutor there now giving the press more information about the story, about the finding now of the body of that police officer who is suspected of having killed five people.


GREG SACKOWICZ, OCEAN COUNTY PROSECUTOR: ...have been five fatalities in Dover Township. We will put out their names and ages at a press conference later today. If you are not there, we are putting a press release out also. I'll leave a pad, you can leave your fax numbers, we will take care of that.

QUESTION: Do you have a time for that?


QUESTION: Right here?

SACKOWICZ: At the prosecutor's office. Now?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) self-inflicted gunshot wounds?

SACKOWICZ: We don't know that yet. We know there is a person in the car who appears to be deceased. When we have an identification on that person, we will let you know.

QUESTION: Do you know if it is a man or a woman?

QUESTION: Sir, just can you describe the car?

SACKOWICZ: I don't have that yet. I was told it is a man, but we have people en route.

QUESTION: What happened last night as far as you know, what he did, what you allege that he did, how he went about doing it?

SACKOWICZ: One second. Do you want to take this?

Last night, sometime after 9:00 PM, a call was received at the Dover Township Police Department as to gunshot wounds -- gunshots being heard. Dover Township responded. There was one injured person who was taken to the hospital, and there were three deceased persons in the house across from Mr. Lutes' residence, and two deceased persons in the house next door and to the rear of his house.

Information was developed that it was, in fact, police officer Lutes who had been in the vicinity with the weapon, and the person -- do you want to pick that up, whose ever it is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't worry about it.

SACKOWICZ: Okay. After the identification was made, a call was placed by Dover Township to Seaside Heights Police Chief James Costello, since it was one of his personnel. As Chief Costello was exiting his residence in Barnegat, it appears that Officer Lutes pulled in front of his house, and discharged a weapon, striking the chief at a minimum of three times. The injuries seemed to be to his extremities, with the most significant injury being to his wrist area. The other shots, I believe, were in his leg. He was taken to Jersey Shore Medical Center. He was in stable condition and treated, and happy to report he is doing well.

QUESTION: Greg, the car that was found, was it found in a residential area, at a shopping center? I mean, can you talk about where?

SACKOWICZ: I really don't have...

QUESTION: Was it found close to the chief's home?

SACKOWICZ: As you can see, Chief Mahoney (ph) has just advised me, a positive identification has been made, that it is Mr. Lutes in the vehicle, it is, in fact, appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The autopsy, the forensic analysis will be conducted on all victims starting later this afternoon. But since there will be six autopsies conducted, it's going to be a lengthy period of time. When those results are finished, we will put them out.

QUESTION: Any idea of motive yet?


QUESTION: ...motive at all yet?

SACKOWICZ: At this stage, we are not discussing the motive involved. We hope to do all the background investigation and be able to share more information hopefully later today.

QUESTION: Is it true that his girlfriend was killed recently?

SACKOWICZ: Approximately a year ago, his girlfriend died as a result of a motor vehicle incident. I believe it was in Beachwood.


SACKOWICZ: In South Toms River. That was about a year ago. QUESTION: Can you tell us about the SWAT team training and what he had to go through to be a member of the SWAT team, and if he went through any psychological tests?

SACKOWICZ: I am not qualified, I have no expertise in SWAT teams. Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Do you know if Officer Lutes expressed any personal or psychological problems within the department?

SACKOWICZ: I would have no way of knowing that. The investigation is continuing. We will attempt to determine all background information.

QUESTION: Have the police ever come to this address before?


SACKOWICZ: I don't have a confirmation on the caliber of the weapon. I believe that he had several weapons. Which ones were actually used will be determined at the autopsies.


QUESTION: Are you aware of the motive and you just aren't ready to discuss it with the media, or do you not have any idea what the motive might have been?

SACKOWICZ: We have our suspicions, and we're flushing them out right now.

QUESTION: There is talk of a neighborhood feud. Was that going on, a neighborhood feud?

SACKOWICZ: I have no comment on that at this stage.

QUESTION: Have police been to these houses in recent times? Has there been a record of police coming here for disturbances?

SACKOWICZ: I have no information on that. That will come out in time.

QUESTION: Did he use more than one (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

SACKOWICZ: As I just told the people over here, the calibers that were used to inflict the fatal wounds will be determined after the autopsies.


QUESTION: ... does it appear that it was done shortly after the shootings, or this morning?

SACKOWICZ: That will be determined by the forensic (AUDIO GAP) who is doing the examination. I am not one. What, sir? QUESTION: ...chain of events as you know them right now. Can you walk us through the chain? Where he went, and in what order, help us out in that...

QUESTION: Which house he went to first, he's asking.

SACKOWICZ: I don't know the order of the two houses here, which one he went through first. So, he...

QUESTION: Walk us through what he did. Just tell us what you know that he did.

SACKOWICZ: I stated there were gunshot wounds. He went into one house, and there were three individuals who suffered fatal gunshot wounds. He then went across the street, into another house, and there were two fatal gunshot wounds. Which house he went to first, I am not certain. After that, we believe that he went down to Barnegat, where he inflicted the wounds on Chief Costello.


QUESTION: ...sixth person who was shot, can that person give -- are they able to give an account?

SACKOWICZ: There is a sixth person who has been cooperating with us. He has received medical care, and he is being debriefed, and he was cooperative during ...


SACKOWICZ: And all that evidence will be compiled and put together.


SACKOWICZ: I am not divulging where the vehicle was found because we are preserving the integrity of the crime scene so that can be processed.

If I were to give out the location, you would be on your way down there.

QUESTION: Understood, but how close is it to the Police Chief's house?

QUESTION: The sixth person -- the sixth person, where was he shot?

SACKOWICZ: I am not saying where it was or how close it was.

QUESTION: The sixth person, where was he shot -- he or she. Is it male or female?

SACKOWICZ: It was in the area right in front one of these houses here, a block away.


QUESTION: I'm sorry (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Was the sixth person a male?

SACKOWICZ: It was a male.


QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) shot or injured? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the sixth person.

SACKOWICZ: The sixth person sustained a gunshot wound.


QUESTION: Was it a family, was it a mother and a father, or children or young adults?

SACKOWICZ: I don't have that information right now. It would be very easy for me to tell you that the people who are dead are the people who usually reside in the house. We have identifications to make. We have notifications to be made to the families, and we have other concerns which may not merge directly with yours, but we are going to make the identifications, advise all the relatives, then we'll put out the word for you.

HARRIS: You've been listening to Greg Sackowicz, who is the Ocean County prosecutor there, divulging the information there to us and to you as well. You heard it at the same time we did. They did find a body in the 1995 Buick Regal that is owned by officer Ed Lutes, is the way they are pronouncing his last name, Lutes, and they have identified him -- the body inside that car as Officer Lutes.

We heard some more information there from the prosecutor about what happened last night. They were saying that Lutes apparently went into two houses in his neighborhood, beginning with his next door neighbors' house, where he shot three people and killed them there, then went across the street and shot three people there, and killed two of them.

One other person has been shot in that other house, and he has received medical help, and he is now helping the prosecutors and the police in this case. So we also understand that Lutes went to his Boss's home, and shot him in his own home three times. He did survive, though. He is still in the hospital this morning.

Now, you may have also heard our Michael Okwu there in the crowd asking the prosecutor about a motive. Well, the prosecutor says that they have their suspicions about what the motive here may be, but they are just not prepared right now to say what that is. And we will continue to follow this story as it develops, and bring those developments to you.




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