Police & Fire

Grand Jury 'Declines to Indict' Trooper in Sparta Shooting Incident

Whispering Woods Lane where the shooting took place last July Credits: Jennifer Dericks

TRENTON, NJ – Nearly a year after New Jersey State Trooper Kissenger Barreau fired his gun at three Sparta teens in the middle of the night, a grand jury “declined to file any criminal charges” according to a press release from the acting Attorney General Robert Lougy.

The matter is not closed, however.  Civil litigation is pending.  Last November Atlantic City attorney Louis Barbone filed a Notice of Tort Claim on behalf of two of the three boys involved, Jon Baker-Peters and Jesse Barkhorn. 

“I am confident justice will be served with the civil matter,” said Barbone in an interview. 

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Barbone went on to characterize the acting Attorney General’s press release as “ridiculous.”  Saying that the press release “indicates the trooper yelled ‘get off my property,’ chases them to the street seemingly intentionally putting himself in harm’s way, and shoots at them,” yet the grand jury fails to indict “seems illogical and counter intuitive.” 

In the decision not to indict, it appears the grand jury felt Barreau’s use of deadly force was within the Attorney General’s Use of Force guidelines.  The Attorney General’s Use of Force Policy, last revised in 2000 says “restraint should be exercised” and that “the degree of force employed…should be only that reasonably necessary…exhausting all other reasonable means before resorting to the use of force.”

The guidelines also address the concept of Imminent Danger saying it “describes threatened actions or outcomes that may occur during the encounter absent action by the law enforcement officer.”

Again, Barbone asserted the finding that Barreau fired his weapon at the three retreating boys was in “self-defense is also illogical, counterintuitive and ridiculous.”

A neighbor, wishing not to be identified, agreed, saying,” It’s ridiculous that they found he met the standards of proper use of force. They are idiots.”

While grand jury proceedings are secret, the Lougy’s statement said the grand jury heard evidence gathered by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team, including witness interviews and forensic studies of the scene and ballistics. 

They conducted a survey of the scene last summer shutting down Whispering Woods Lane for most of a day.  The investigation included survey of the neighborhood done at night with a helicopter according to people who live there.

The grand jury heard instruction on several “potential criminal charges,” according to the statement, including “attempted murder, various types of aggravated assault and simple assault.”  After hearing the testimony, the grand jury declined to indict on any criminal charges.

“How about reckless endangerment?” said the neighbor.  “Did they even try to charge him with something?  I guess it isn’t a surprise, Barreau didn’t even miss a day of work.  Ridiculous.”

Last July three teens mistakenly went to the Barreau’s home at 2 a.m.  Thinking they were at a friend’s house they shouted and banged on the door to get someone to let them in. 

The recording of Barreau’s wife’s call to 911 reveals one of the boys identified himself by name at this time. 

This was corroborated in Lougy’s report about the grand jury proceedings.  It said, “one of the individuals outside said a name.  It turned out to be the correct name of one of the teens.”

When Barreau shouted back at them to get off his property the three teens fled.  This is corroborated in the grand jury testimony reported in the press release.  The teens got in the car and had to drive past the trooper’s house to get away, since it is a cul-de-sac with only one exit.

Barreau had his “off duty fire-arm a .40 caliber handgun with a laser sight” when he positioned himself in the middle of the road, also corroborated in the press release.  The teens said they “saw the trooper standing in the middle of the road with a gun.”

The reported testimony said the “driver and at least one of the other teens indicated they were afraid and accelerated when they saw the trooper with the gun in the street” but all three agree they “did not want to hit the trooper.”

The release reports the teens said they had to swerve around him.  The driver and one passenger specified they “went to the left side of the road to avoid the trooper,” while Barreau said the “car began to veer toward him.”

Barbone said the findings of a grand jury are all a matter of how the case is presented.  He was waiting for the results of the grand jury and is continuing with the civil case.

No charges were filed against the three teens.  Initially one had been charged with possession of marijuana but those charges were dismissed, for “failure to prosecute.”


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