Police & Fire

In Dark of Night, Off-Duty Trooper Fires at Unarmed Teens

NJ State Troopers used helicopter in search Credits: Sal Bonaccorso

SPARTA, NJ – Three young adults were arrested in the early hours of Saturday morning after mistakenly knocking on the door of a New Jersey State Trooper and fleeing the scene.

Early Saturday morning Sparta Police and the New Jersey State Police were involved in a search for one of the men in the area of West Mountain Road. According to people close to the investigation, three young adults, after leaving a graduation party, attempted to go to a friend’s house nearby. 

A source said, they mistakenly went to the next door neighbor’s home. After repeatedly ringing the doorbell and loudly knocking on the door, the homeowner, a state trooper, came to the door. When he opened the door and shouted at them, the three men ran away. 

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The three got into a vehicle and the officer fired three gun shots as they attempted to flee. The car became disabled approximately one half mile from the original scene. Two of the men were apprehended at the vehicle. The third, Matthew Mayer fled, according to local sources.

A neighbor said she was awoken to the “pop, pop, pop” of the gunshots. 

A large search began, according to residents of several of the West Mountain Road neighborhoods. The state police dispatched a helicopter “which searched with a bright spotlight,” according to an area resident. Search teams combed the area on foot, with canine units and in patrol vehicles. One homeowner said their home and property were searched, another said the police officers came to their home and questioned them about Mayer. It is not clear if there were any other homes searched in relation to this investigation.

The two men, John Baker-Marasco, and Jesse Barkhorn, were taken to the Netcong Trooper Barracks for questioning and processing. 

Mayer was eventually found and arrested. He was also taken to the Netcong Trooper Barracks. It is not clear what charges, if any, have been brought against these men. 

The Sparta police said the state police are conducting the investigation. Officer Kelly at the Netcong Trooper Barracks said information about the investigation would have to be obtained “from Trenton.” Detective Doug Porter of the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office said he was not on the scene and since the state police were heading up the investigation, “our office would defer to the State Police” in making a statement.  

The Media Relations officer Trooper Spies initially said Sparta was handling the investigation. She then said information had to be obtained from the Attorney General’s Office. The State Police Media Relations office said they cannot comment on possible charges made against the three men since the attorney general’s office is conducting the investigation.

The Press Office of the attorney general’s office had not responded to inquiries by the time of publication.

The Sussex County Sheriff’s office had also not responded in time for publication.   

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