LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — A 47-year-old man, Francis Hartnett, who may have been suicidal was shot to death by police Tuesday after a confrontation at the Royal Timbers apartment complex, authorities said.
Neighbors were shocked and saddened to learn he was the son of a resident.
Police received a call about a suicidal man at 11:35 a.m., officers responded and shots were fired, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office said Tuesday. The man died, authorities said.
Hartnett's father, whom neighbors called “old man John,” was seen running from his apartment at the time of the shooting, tears pouring down his face, residents said.
“I have been living here for four years and I have never seen that man cry,” said neighbor John Fekete. “He has a lot of pride for an old-timer, I am sure it took a lot for him to shed those.”
Fekete, 25, said he was on the phone with a friend from Scanner News New Jersey, and following the incident. Fekete said he went outside to check on the situation, and heard police say repeatedly to the man, “Sir, don’t do that,” followed by multiple gunshots.
Resident Pat Liming, 75, said she would see Hartnett in the neighborhood on occasion. His father John, would speak with Liming often, she said. John was prepping to move in with his son and his son’s girlfriend at her apartment, Liming said. She said Hartnett did not live in the complex full-time and stayed there only occasionally, splitting his time between his father’s place and his girlfriend’s.
“When you are up in years, you need a little help, so his son was trying to help him out by letting him move in with him, but he didn’t move yet. … That’s what I heard,” Liming said.
She expressed shock and sorrow at Hartnett’s death, saying he appeared as if “nothing had been bothering him.”
But, according to Francis' ex-wife Carol Hartnett, Francis and his girlfriend had recently split. Francis was only temporarily living with his father in Royal Timbers while he searched for new arrangements.
Carol said her that relationship with Francis had remained cordial. The two had been married for 25 years and have two children.
Neighbor Andre Dercqu, 48, said John had another son who recently died.
Residents said the neighborhood is usually safe, other than occasional drug issues. When the sound of gunfire rang out in the complex, they were stunned. Fekete and Dercqu described this community as “tight-knit, everyone knows one another.”
“This is the worst thing that has happened here since I moved in three years ago,” said Cara Mahaffey, 23, who had been babysitting in a nearby unit.
With the holidays quickly approaching, Fekete and other neighbors expressed concern for Francis' family members.
“Now they will have to be alone,” Fekete said, sighing.
The prosecutor’s Major Crimes Unit is handling the investigation, with the assistance of detectives from the Ocean County Sheriff’s CSI Division.
Police visited the complex in March after a 22-year-old man was found unconscious in a parked car. Police said a hypodermic syringe and 19 bags of heroin were recovered at the scene.
Police in neighboring Tuckerton were involved in a shooting in September 2011, when officers shot and killed borough resident Steven Theoharides, 35, after he threatened two officers with a meat cleaver at his Otis Avenue home.