EAST ORANGE, NJ - Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and East Orange Police Chief William C. Robinson announced today that Robert O’Neil, 29, of East Orange, has been arrested and charged with attempted murder for shooting 12-year police veteran Sergeant Michael Williams.

At approximately 11:22 a.m. today, Sgt. Williams was patrolling in the area of New Street and North Oraton Parkway when he encountered O’Neil. The suspect pulled an automatic weapon on Sgt. Williams, shooting him in his lower abdomen. The bullet struck the officer’s bullet proof vest, preventing serious injury.

Recently voted “Officer of the Month,” Sgt. Williams was part of anti-crime, quality-of-life unit that works in that area. Sgt. Williams discharged his weapon, but did not hit O’Neil, who fled on foot.

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Sgt. Williams called for back-up while making the stop. Responding officers were quickly able to apprehend the suspect not long after Sgt. Williams was struck. O’Neil, who had an open warrant out of Morris County, was arrested and charged with attempted murder, resisting arrest and weapons offenses. He is currently in custody.

Sgt. Williams was transported to University Hospital in Newark where he was treated and released.

“The vest probably saved his life,” said Chief Robinson. “This is something that we always know can happen, but when it happens, you feel very deep about it. We’ll do whatever we can to support him and his family.”

Upon learning of the incident, Mayor Lester Taylor III visited Sgt. Williams in the hospital.

“Sgt. Williams is active in the community both on and off duty,” said Mayor Taylor, who also knows the officer personally as Sensei Mike who teaches at a local karate school. “He risks his life everyday to keep East Orange safe and I commend him for his bravery during this tragic incident.”

The charges against the defendant are accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they enter a guilty plea or are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.