A $50,000 reward was offered Thursday for the capture of the gunmen who shot two Camden County Metro police officers in a brazen attack this week in Camden's Bergen Square neighborhood.
Investigators have recovered a white van that left the scene of Tuesday night's shooting at Broadway and Mount Vernon Street, according to Rick Kunkel, president of Camden County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 218. The van was located the night of the shooting and prosecutors have applied for a warrant to search it, he said.
One of the two wounded police detectives was released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon and the second officer released Thursday evening, authorities said. The officers — a male and a female detective — were working a special detail targeting gangs and drug activities when the gunmen opened fire on their unmarked police vehicle stopped at a light, authorities said. Authorities said 10 to 25 rounds were fired at the officers, whose names are being withheld by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.
A manhunt continued Thursday for two male suspects. Authorities on Wednesday released photographs of two persons of interest wanted in connection with the shooting.
Union officials on Thursday announced $50,000 in rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects. The state Policemen's Benevolent Association pledged $20,000 through its NJ Cop Shot program, and FOP Lodge 218, which represents both detectives, put up $5,000, said Kunkel. The state FOP also posted a $25,000 reward, he said. State FOP president Bob Fox could not be reached for comment.
"We consider an attack on ANY law enforcement officer in New Jersey regardless of Union affiliation an attack on one of our own," state PBA president Patrick Colligan said in a statement. "We want these dangerous criminals brought to justice as quickly as possible and we are confident that this reward will help."
Kunkel said the male detective, a member of the force for about three years, who was shot in a forearm and bicep, was released late Wednesday afternoon. The female detective, on the force about four years, was released Thursday, he said. She had been shot in one hand. Both detectives have been placed on administrative leave pending a review of the use of force.
No possible motive has been given for the attack. The officers were in plainclothes when the shooters pulled behind the police vehicle, got out of their vehicle, and began firing. It was unknown whether the assailants had recognized the detectives, who were working undercover.
"Whoever the suspects were, their intent was obvious," Kunkel said. "They were trying to assassinate whoever was in the vehicle, regardless of whether they knew they were officers or not."
As bullets hit the back windshield of the police vehicle, one of the officers jumped out and returned fire, authorities said. Witnesses reported seeing a bullet-riddled van fleeing the area.
Authorities said no bystanders were struck. It was unknown if the suspects were wounded by the detective's return fire.
Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo, who is heading the probe because the shooting involves municipal officers, has declined to comment through a spokesperson.
The shooting happened on National Night Out, an activity designed to bring together police and the communities they cover.
The incident marks the third time that Camden County police officers have been wounded since the department took over patrols in Camden in 2013 and the city police force was disbanded. The officers in the earlier shootings survived their injuries.
Authorities also announced Thursday that two Camden County sheriff's officers narrowly escaped injury when a man fired a 9mm gun at them during an Aug. 1 incident in Camden. The officers were responding to reports of a man with a weapon when they approached the gunman, authorities said. The weapon misfired and the gunman, identified as Cameron Rogers, 18, ran away, Sheriff Gilbert "Whip" Wilson said.