Law Enforcement Officials Rule Out Any Connection in Both Deaths

HOWELL/FARMINGDALE — Investigations continue into the unrelated deaths of two men that occurred on Friday, October 18 — the first in Howell and another several miles away in Farmingdale about 15 hours later, according to authorities.

At about 3:46 a.m., a man was found deceased on Hurley Pond Road just east of Route 547 by Howell police — later to be identified as Domingo Merino Rafael, 33, of Lakewood, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, which has ruled the death a homicide.

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In neighboring Farmingdale at about 10:30 p.m., a man wielding a knife was fatally shot by a Howell police officer, who was answering a 911 call from a person claiming to be stabbed by his brother at the Walnut Street home, according to preliminary police reports.

“The public can rest assured there is no connection between the Hurley Pond Road homicide and the incident that occurred later Friday night at Walnut Street. The Walnut Street event is being investigated by the state Office of the Attorney General pursuant to their directive on officer-involved shootings,” said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni in a statement.

In the Farmingdale incident, Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick released a statement yesterday, October 19 that provides a timeline of what occurred. Since Farmingdale does not have a police department, it is under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey State police with assistance from Howell police.

Within three minutes of receiving a 911 call from a person claiming to be stabbed by his brother at the Walnut Street home, a Howell police officer arrived at the scene, where he was immediately confronted by an armed male who refused several commands to drop a bladed object, according to Kudrick’s statement.

“The male refused these commands while approaching and challenging the officer. The officer was forced to defend himself along with several other involved parties who were present. The officer fired multiple rounds striking the male,” Kudrick said. “Despite the highly emotional scene, the officer immediately began life-saving efforts on the male.”

Several additional Howell units and the New Jersey State Police troopers also arrived and assisted at the scene, where the male who was shot was pronounced deceased. The involved officer was not injured, but transported to the hospital for trauma, Kudrick said.

As with any officer-involved shooting, those involved will be placed in an administrative capacity until resolution of the investigation, he said, adding the officer’s name will be withheld until the Attorney General’s investigation is "substantially complete.”

“Although the final disposition of this case rests with the AG’s office, I publicly commend my officer for taking the necessary and immediate action to end the deadly threat he was presented with,” Kudrick said. “Without doubt, he saved additional loss of life. I have the confidence Howell officers abided by policy and upheld the integrity of their position and the trust of the community.”

Multiple agencies are involved in the investigation, including the State Police, which is handling the crime scene and investigation, and the Shooting Response Team from the Attorney General’s Office, which is investigating the officer-involved shooting itself, Kudrick said.

In addition, the Professional Responsibilities Unit of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Howell Police Internal Affairs are also involved.

“When further information is released by the other agencies, you will gain a better understanding the violent, dangerous and highly emotional environment encountered by the involved officers,” Kudrick said.

In the earlier Howell incident, Rafael was transported to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, where he was pronounced dead shortly after his body was discovered, the statement said.

Upon arrival at the scene, Monmouth County’s Serious Collision Analysis Response Team determined Rafael’s death was not the result of a hit-and-run accident, as was originally suspected, it continued. His body was taken to the Middlesex County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office, where a post-mortem examination determined the cause of death as a homicide, the prosecutor said.

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Dugan.

Anyone with information that could assist in this investigation is urged to contact Detective Kevin Condon of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office at 800-533-7443 or Det. Sgt. Peter Kuppler of the Howell Township Police Department at 732-938-4575 ext. 2245.

Anyone who feels the need to remain anonymous but has information about a crime can contact Monmouth County Crime Stoppers confidential telephone tip-line by calling 1-800-671-4400; can text “MONMOUTH” plus their tip to 274637; or, they can email a tip via the website at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com. Monmouth County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of criminals and fugitives.