EXCLUSIVE: Law enforcement sources told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that Robert Ellis, killed early Saturday in a shootout with police outside his mother’s Washington Township house, was the one who called them there in the first place. “We’re thinking suicide by cop,” one disclosed. A family friend later supported that statement.
Police suspect Ellis, 48, who was classified as emotionally disturbed, may have been high on drugs when he opened fire on officers with a rifle after they responded to a fight he was having with his mother at her home, sources with direct knowledge of the incident told
Ellis blasted a hole through the window of the first police cruiser to arrive, then was chased into nearby woods by two Washington Township officers before he ran back to the house and emerged firing again, they said. At that point, officers from Hillsdale had joined in.
Ellis’s body was later removed from the bushes in front of the home, they said.
Ellis was living there only because his own home — on Laurel Avenue in Ridgewood — was burned down in December after a lighted cigarette was left unattended, sources told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
“I don’t know much, but I do know that these guys last night were warriors — ordinary people who were called to do an extraordinary job,” an officer who knows some of those involved told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
“The details are still emerging,” the officer said, “but there’s no question that our cops — whether they’re in a small town like Washington Township or a big city — have something special deep inside.”
Two Washington Township patrolmen were dispatched to 568 Jackson Road “on the report of a disturbance” around 1:30 a.m., Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said this afternoon. Police who listented to a recording of the 911 call told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that Ellis himself placed it.
Soon after they arrived, Molinelli said, Ellis began shooting, with one of his rifle blasts shattering a patrol car window.
“During the ensuing 15 to 30 minutes, police from Westwood and Hillsdale responded and several more shots were fired by [Ellis] while both outside and inside the residence,” the prosecutor said.
Ellis then came outside and began shooting again. This time, police returned fire, killing him, around 2 a.m., Molinelli said.
Because it was a police shooting, Molinelli said, state Attorney General directives require him to investigate.
Washington Township, not even three square miles, has barely 10,000 people, in the northeast corner of Bergen County, bordered by similarly quiet, bedroom communities in the Pascack Valley, such as Woodcliff Lake, Hillsdale and Emerson.
Officers from the township and Hillsdale later had backup from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office.
All of the police officers escaped serious injury.
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