News

Police shooting of gun shop robbery suspect was justified

Written by John Latimer and Les Stewart/Lebanon Daily News | Mar 30, 2016 11:54 AM
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Photo of Joshua Malave with rifle he used to fire at police taken a couple days before shooting, from tree cam near campground. (John Latimer/Lebanon Daily News)

Investigation determines the unnamed officer who shot the New Jersey teen was justified.

(Lebanon) -- The officer who shot and killed a New Jersey teenager in the process of burglarizing a gun shop last summer was justified, Lebanon County District Attorney David Arnold announced Wednesday morning.

Joshua Malave, 18, of Cinnaminson, N.J., was shot by police investigating a burglary at the Horseshoe Pike Gun Shop at Route 117 and Route 322 shortly after 5 a.m. Aug. 3.

South Londonderry police were sent to the shop for a burglary in progress and encountered Malave outside the shop. He was wearing camouflage, a ski mask and carrying a rifle when he was seen running across the street into a soybean field where police lost sight of him, Arnold said.

After more police were called to the scene a parameter was set around the field, Arnold said. Shortly thereafter an officer observed someone moving in the soybean field. The suspect, later identified as Malave, jumped to his feet and ran in the direction of a residence and adjacent cornfield, with three police officer giving pursuit, Arnold said.

While chasing the suspect, the officer repeatedly yelled for him to stop but Malave ignored the command, Arnold said.

Early reports from police indicated Malave fired first but Arnold said Wednesday that the officer fired at Malave after warning him several times to stop.

"Out of fear for the safety of his fellow officers, anyone who may have been inside the private residence, and his own safety, one of the officers fired a shot at the armed suspect," Arnold said. "The suspect then returned fire with one shot from his rifle."

The same officer again yelled to the suspect to stop or they will shoot, but Malave continued to ignore him, causing the officer to fire another shot, which struck Malave in the head, killing him, Arnold said. No police officers were harmed.

"The officer involved was justified in employing deadly force to subdue Joshua Malave who had just burglarized the Horseshoe Pike Gun Shop," Arnold said during the news conference held near his office in the Lebanon Municipal Building. "The officer could not avoid using deadly force with complete safety for himself and/or other officers and residents of the community."

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Photo by Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News

FILE PHOTO: Officials remove the Malave's body from a soybean field  on Monday, July 3, 2015.

During the investigation investigators became aware of a photo of Malave taken two days prior to the shooting. The photo was taken from a tree cam belonging to a resident near the Thousand Trails Campground where the family was staying and shows Malave wearing camouflage and carrying the same rifle that he used to shoot at police.

Arnold said the officer's actions were justified because he knew that Malave was armed and that his life and the lives of other officers were at risk, By shooting Malave, Arnold said, the officer may have saved the lives of others.

The identity of the police officer who killed Malave was not released.  Arnold said he was not revealing the name out of an abundance of caution because that there had been general threats on social media against police in the days following the incident. Arnold also justified not releasing the officer's name because no charges were filed against him, the same standard he would use for any private citizen.

A total of 81 guns were taken from the store and were located in several bags scattered in the field, Arnold said. Investigators did not know what Malave intended to do with the guns and determined that he acted alone.

Malave was staying with his family at the Thousand Trails Campground, where they had vacationed before, Arnold said. Malave had also visited the gun shop on a previous visit, he said.

The family was unaware that Malave had left the campground that morning. It is about a 20 minute walk to the gun shop, said Arnold who was at a loss to explain how Malave thought he was going to get the guns back to the campground.

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Arnold said he did not know Malave's motive for initially robbing the gun shop, but said once he felt trapped by police he may have committed "suicide by police."

In speaking with Malave's family and from other evidence on the teen's social media sites, Arnold said, there was evidence that he was contemplating suicide.

A recent graduate of Cinnaminson High School, Malave was arrested weeks before his death for a gunshot incident near his home, which could have played into his mindset, the district attorney said.

Arnold said Lebanon County detectives spoke with Malave's parents, Anthony and Heather Malave, prior to Wednesday's news conference. He said they were still distraught over their son's death but understood the decision not to prosecute the police officer who killed him.

An attempt to reach the Malaves was unsuccessful. A listed phone number for there home in Cinnaminson has been disconnected.

*This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.

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