UNION, NJ — The investigation is still ongoing in the fatal shooting of a Piscataway man outside of Paddy’s Place in Union almost two weeks ago.
Michael Gaffney, 37, was fatally shot by an off-duty Newark police officer after an altercation at the bar, acting Union County prosecutor Grace Park said in a statement.
The deadly shooting occurred shortly after 1 a.m. at the bar located at the 900 block of Rosemont Avenue, authorities said. Police responded and found Gaffney, who was pronounced dead at the scene. The officer was treated for non life-threatening injuries.
According to people close to Gaffney, he and the officer knew each other prior to the shooting, and the two reportedly exchanged words at the bar. The dispute later escalated to a fight outside the bar. It was not immediately clear what sparked the dispute.
The preliminary investigation, which currently involves the Prosecutor’s Office’s Homicide Task Force and Special Prosecutions Unit, the Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, the Union County Police Department’s Ballistics Unit, and the Union Township Police Department, determined that an altercation between Gaffney and an off-duty Newark Police Department officer led to the officer using his service weapon, said Park in a statement.
Newark Fraternal Order of Police President James Stewart Jr. said that he believes that the officer — who has not yet been identified — did what he had to do. “I have faith in him,” Stewart told LocalSource. “I don’t believe this is going to result in criminal charges. He did what he had to do. I know he’s taking the brunt of this public lashing right now.”
The family of Gaffney recently started a petition which has already received more than 3,000 signatures. The petition, posted on Change.org and titled, “Gaffney’s Law,” seeks to make it illegal for off-duty law enforcement to carry service weapons into any bar or establishment where they intend to consume alcohol. “Michael Gaffney, beloved, father, son, partner, and friend senselessly died at the hands of an off-duty officer that had been drinking and engaged in a bar fight, that ended when the officer chose, while under the influence, to shoot an unarmed man,” reads the petition. “Alcohol and guns don’t mix. If you cannot drive under the influence, it only makes sense you shouldn’t carry under the influence. Michael Gaffney was not armed, he had no weapons.”
But according to Stewart, there is nothing thus far to substantiate that claim. “The public is jumping to conclusions and turning this into a guns and intoxication thing,” said Stewart, Jr. “Let’s not speak until we know the facts. I believe he did what he needed to do,” he said of the officer.
The petition corroborates that, in fact, Gaffney and the officer had known each other. “The officer involved knew Michael, they had been to parties and BBQ’s together,” reads the petition. “Yes, they were both drinking, yes, a fight ensued, but never should an intoxicated officer with a gun solve drunken anger with his service weapon. Police officers are to protect and serve, not get served and shoot.”
Park said the investigation remains ongoing.
A wake for Gaffney was held last week.