Possible culprit in Bridgeton police shooting? A communication breakdown

(Terry Morris/BigStock)

(Terry Morris/BigStock)

A communication mix-up involving New Jersey, county, and local 911 dispatchers may have led to a late-night shooting in Bridgeton last month, according to Cumberland County records.

Around 11:30 p.m. on July 29, a Millville man called 911 after a disagreement with his cousin. The caller said his cousin was refusing to leave his house, and the caller wanted police to escort him out.

The Cumberland County dispatcher transferred the call to the state police. But the county dispatch also inadvertently sent a copy of the 911 report to the Vineland Police Department, a city about 6 miles away.

Dispatchers in Vineland apparently reported the call to the state police too, but they gave troopers an address that turned out to be incorrect.

That address was the home of Gerald Sykes of Bridgeton, more than 7 miles from where the first 911 call had originated.

The cause of the miscommunication was first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Around 11:50 p.m., state troopers arrived at Sykes’ home to investigate the 911 call Sykes had never made.

What happened next remains in question and under investigation.

Sykes said he saw “prowlers” outside his home and retrieved his shotgun. He said police fired first — several shots into his house, striking him three times. “They were standing out there, and, all of the sudden, they just shot three times through the glass door,” Sykes told the state 911 dispatcher, who again asked who shot him. “The guys out on the porch! The two guys!”

Sykes also fired a single shotgun blast through his back door. One trooper suffered a graze wound, likely from a bullet or flying glass.

Sykes was hospitalized for his wounds but has been released.

Local officials have yet to explain why the 911 call was sent to Vineland dispatchers, and why the report listed an address that turned out to be incorrect.

“If the call is in a rural area and it goes to a 911 center, but the individual is actually located two hills away, there may or may not be any coordination between those two 911 centers,” said Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association.

“As a result of that there may be — not that there necessarily would be, but there may be — some information that is either corrupted or doesn’t transfer exactly,” he said.

While a lack of coordination between 911 centers is not a widespread national problem, it can occasionally happen, he said.

The state attorney general’s office is investigating the shooting.

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