TUCKERTON — Two borough police officers involved in a fatal shooting in September have been cleared by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office to return to duty.
Tuckerton Police Chief Michael Caputo said Officer Brian Olsen and K-9 Officer Justin Cherry were approved late Tuesday afternoon.
Authorities said Olsen and Cherry shot Otis Avenue resident 35-year-old Steven Theoharides on the evening of Sept. 15, after he threatened them with a knife.
Olsen and Cherry have remained on administrative leave from the department while the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office conducted an investigation.
First Assistant Prosecutor Michael Paulhus said the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office conducted an independent investigation of the incident and reviewed the evidence — and that the two officers were legally justified in using deadly force.
“I’m now in the process of preparing a letter to send to the Attorney General’s Office that includes the findings of our investigation, along with the conclusion that the use of deadly force was justified under these circumstances,” Paulhus said Wednesday afternoon.
The Prosecutor’s Office declined to release any information about the investigation until Wednesday.
Paulhus said the Attorney General’s Office will next complete a review of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s investigation and determine whether the investigation is complete or whether the matter should be referred to a grand jury.
While the review of the investigation is completed, Caputo said, the Tuckerton Police Department is working on getting Olsen and Cherry situated and back at work.
Olsen will return to work as a patrolman in the borough and Cherry will return to duty as the borough’s K-9 officer. Both men must qualify with their weapons at the shooting range before returning to the road, Caputo said.
Caputo said the other officers in the department are relieved that Olsen and Cherry are coming back.
For the past few months the department has battled a shortage in manpower while the two officers were out of work.
“None of us here have actually been through anything like that,” Caputo said. “A lot of people don’t understand that in sleepy little towns like Tuckerton, these kinds of things happen.”
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