EDISON, NJ – Long-serving local and state public servant Peter Barnes II passed away today. Barnes served his country, state, district and the Township of East Brunswick the past 71 years.
Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe today issued the following statement on the passing of former Assemblyman and MCDO Chairman Peter Barnes II: “It is with a heavy heart that I learned today of the passing of Assemblyman Peter Barnes II, who served Middlesex County so faithfully for so many years, both in the Legislature and during his time as its Democratic Chairman."
“I would also be remiss not to note that Assemblyman Barnes passed on a day when we commemorate the fallen and the first responders who gave their lives in service to our nation. As a former FBI agent, Assemblyman Barnes embodied the spirit we remember today: courage, service and unwavering ethics and loyalty. On behalf of the MCDO, we offer his family our prayers and strength during this difficult time."
During his ten plus years in the Assembly, Barnes was the primary sponsor of 62 bills that were signed into law. He represented the 18th Legislative District, serving along with Barbara Buono, former Candidate for New Jersey Governor; State Senator Patrick J. Diegnan; and Assemblywoman Nancy J. Pinkin.
On Facebook today, Senator Diegnan made the following remarks: "It is with great sadness that I report that my friend, former Assemblyman Pete Barnes Jr passed away this morning. Pete lived a life straight out of the movies...FBI agent, Police Director in two towns, Assemblyman, Director of the Parole Board,head of security for the New Jersey Devils. Most importantly he was a loving husband, father and grandfather. I was blessed to be his friend. God bless him and give comfort to Barbara and the family."
According to the Assemblyman's online biography, Barnes authored several major pieces of legislation, including a landmark bill that was signed into law in 2004 creating the New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing. This research outlet is composed of key representatives of the criminal justice system, who serve without compensation, and are charged with promoting sound sentencing policy founded on the basic principles of public safety, proportionality and fairness. After conducting empirically-based research, this deliberative body is charged with making recommendations to the Legislature on appropriate amendments to the State's sentencing code.
To honor the death of New Brunswick Deputy Fire Chief Jimmy D'heron, who was killed in the line of duty on September 3, 2004, Barnes also introduced a bill that was signed into law in 2006, which established certain hiring preferences for the children of firefighters and law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. In June 2006, Michael D'heron, Jimmy's son, was hired by the New Brunswick Fire Department. For the Assemblyman's efforts, he was honored by the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey.
Barnes also sponsored legislation that created stricter regulation of unlicensed, unsupervised, and untrained bounty hunters ; created a law aimed at keeping common bomb-making materials away from terrorists; and given state and local law enforcement officers more tools to investigate online sex crimes against children.
Before resigning his seat, the Assemblyman introduced a controversial piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 2877 which would have reduced drug-free school and public property zones from 1,000 to 200 feet. This bill was introduced in response to a report issued by a blue-ribbon panel, the New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing, which strongly argued that the current drug-free school zone laws do not serve as the deterrent that they were purported to be. While this legislation remains the subject of some debate, it has received praise from the editorial page of The Star-Ledger, New Jersey's largest newspaper. In addition, this report and subsequent legislation generated national attention and was reported in a variety of national daily newspapers.
At age 25, Barnes was hired as a Special Agent for the F.B.I. where he served as an Assistant Senior Supervisory Agent and was responsible for investigating numerous violations of Federal Criminal Statutes.
In his first year, 1954, Barnes was assigned to F.B.I. San Francisco where he served until 1957. During his time there, he investigated cases involving bank robberies, Soviet espionage, and kidnappings. In 1956, he worked on the Stephanie Bryant kidnapping case, which at that time was the most prominent kidnapping case the State of California had ever seen.
In 1958, Barnes was transferred to New Jersey, where he worked at F.B.I. Headquarters in Newark. He would spend the rest of his F.B.I. career in New Jersey, working at the F.B.I., New Brunswick and ending his career in 1980 at F.B.I., Piscataway. While in New Jersey, he was responsible for investigating cases involving white-collar crime, bank robberies, and internal security.
In 1981, Barnes became the Director of Security for the New Jersey Devils Hockey Team where he served until 1995.
Barnes began his public service in 1991 by serving as the Director of Public Safety in Edison, New Jersey. Only six months into his new position, Barnes led the Edison Police Department as it engaged in a two-day hostage standoff with John Arias, a 22-year-old Connecticut man. On June 1, 1991, The New York Times reported that Arias went to the home of his 20-year-old former girlfriend who had recently filed sexual assault charges against him, shot her four times, then locked himself in her Edison home where he killed the woman's mother, 38, and took her 9-year-old brother hostage.
With his F.B.I. training, Barnes ran the hostage negotiating team, which included one-on-one telephone contact with the hostage taker, Mr. Arias. The situation concluded one-day later at 7 p.m. when Barnes and his Deputy Chief, Anthony Calomoneri, were determined to "lay it on the line and get tough." They decided to send an armed personnel carrier rumbling up toward the house in an effort to scare the suspect into surrendering. Clearly shaken by this maneuver, John Arias phoned the police and said, "I'll be out in five seconds. Let me put my shoes on." The boy followed and was unharmed. Arias was subsequently sentenced to Life in Prison plus 50 years. He will not be eligible for parole until 2041.
Barnes remained the Director of Public Safety in Edison until 1993.
Following, he served East Brunswick Township as Director of Public Safety in 1997. He then returned again in 2005. Both times, he served the Township in an unpaid capacity.