Detective Michael Morgan
Newark Police Department, New Jersey
End of Watch: Monday, November 7, 2011
Tour of Duty: 6 years, 6 months
Badge Number: Not available
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: November 7, 2011
Weapon Used: Handgun
Suspect Info: At large
Agency Contact Information
Police Director Samuel DeMaio
Newark Police Department
31 Green Street
Newark, NJ 07102
Phone: (973) 733-6000
Detective Michael Morgan was shot and killed while attempting to take action during a robbery while he was off duty in Paterson, New Jersey.
He and several friends were visiting a club on Straight Street. While outside, speaking to an employee, a suspect approached and attempted to rob the two at gunpoint. Detective Morgan attempted to take action but was shot once in the side during the struggle.
Responding units from the Paterson Police Department transported Detective Morgan to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his wound.
The suspect fled the scene and remains at large.
Detective Morgan had served with the Newark Police Department for 6-1/2 years.
PATERSON – The Newark detective gunned down outside of a city strip club was celebrating the birthday of a friend with several other Newark police officers before the shooting, police said.
Michael Morgan Jr., 32, walked outside the club about 3 a.m. with a dancer when a robber armed with a pistol approached and demanded money. The gunman shot Morgan once before fleeing with money, law enforcement officials said at a Monday afternoon press conference.
It was unclear whether there was a struggle or whether Morgan, who was armed, tried to defend himself. Earlier, Paterson authorities said he did not have time to draw his gun, but there was a struggle.
“We’re police officers 24 hours a day,” said Sheilah Coley, Newark police chief. “It doesn’t matter whether we’re on duty or off duty.”
Police are still looking for the shooting suspect, whom they believe robbed someone moments before Morgan’s killing. Investigators are gathering surveillance video, and several law enforcement agencies are offering a total of $25,000 in reward money.
Morgan had just been promoted from the Newark Police Department’s narcotics and gang unit to the special investigations unit, a post that was supposed to begin on Monday. He began his career at the department in 2005 and grew up in Newark and Belleville.
He was a very productive officer, known for making a lot of gun arrests, Police Director Samuel A. DeMaio said. He was the second off-duty Newark police officer shot and killed this year.
Newark and Belleville police officers guarded Morgan’s parents’ home in Belleville on Monday afternoon, and police barricades prevented cars from getting into the area.
A crowd of about a dozen people — comprising Morgan’s colleagues, family, and friends — paced around the home’s front lawn and stairs, visibly distraught. They declined comment.
According to Belleville Police Chief Joseph Rotonda, who was on the scene consoling the mourners, Morgan grew up in the Belleville home and graduated from Queen of Peace High School, a Catholic institution in North Arlington.
Morgan had been celebrating a friend’s birthday at the Sunrise Gentlemen’s Lounge, at 556 Straight St. Several other Newark police officers had been at the club but had already left when the shooting occurred just blocks away.
He and the dancer were leaving the club when the robber approached them about 3 a.m. The robber fired off a single shot, striking Morgan in his side. The suspect stole money and fled on foot.
A Paterson police vehicle responding to the shooting at Getty Avenue and Straight Street took Morgan to nearby St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Police believe the gunman held up a woman on Elizabeth Street three blocks south of the fatal shooting shortly before 3 a.m. Money also was taken in that robbery.
“This officer gave his life to stop a criminal who had already robbed another citizen. This rising level of violence must be stopped,” said State PBA President Anthony Wieners.
Newark police and city officials offered condolences to Morgan’s family.
“Detective Morgan was a proud and courageous servant of our city,” said Mayor Cory Booker. “His loss is tragic, and the circumstances of his death make it all the more painful. Our prayers are with his family and all who knew and loved this great man."
Newark Police Chief Sheilah Coley was visited the hospital and the shooting scene this morning. She said a large group of Newark police officers gathered at the hospital, just blocks from the shooting, to show support for Morgan and his family.
“He was one of our best officers. He was of our finest and brightest stars,” Coley said.
At his graduation from the police academy in 2005, Morgan was quoted as saying that he wanted to be a police officer since he was kid.
"I have a lot of respect for it," he said. "It’s something I always wanted to do."
Police said Morgan was off-duty and at the club with friends.
A man who identified himself as "one of the owners" of the club, but would not give his name, said the shooting happened around 3 a.m. as the club was closing. The victim was walking a dancer to her car when he was shot outside the club, he said.
"This is an isolated and unfortunate incident," the club owner said, adding that there has never been any problem with street violence outside the club before.
Paterson detectives canvassed the neighborhood around the club Monday asking people if they heard or saw anything. The Sunrise Gentlemen’s Lounge reopened about noon, its bouncer standing next to a velvet rope as the investigators went door to door.
The scene of the shooting is about 200 feet from the club’s entrance on Getty Avenue. It is an area where cars routinely park on the sidewalk off Getty Avenue. The club owner said there was an outdoor surveillance camera trained on the scene and that police removed the videotape as part of the investigation.
Investigators used spray paint to mark the spot where two cars were parked on Getty Avenue.
Residents awakened to the blaring red lights of police sirens early Monday morning. One resident of nearby Plum Street, William Guarnari, said he heard the sound of a police helicopter whirring overhead.
"There were police officers going through backyards," Guanari recalled. "There was a helicopter overhead." Guanari said he didn’t hear any gunfire.
Guanari said he’s lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years. He said the main problem with the neighborhood is homeless people rummaging through backyards and stealing things. The club hasn’t caused any problems, he said.
Jason Rodriguez, who came by to check on his parents who live next door to the club, said he has seen trouble at the club.
“It’s the same thing all the time. There’s fights. It never ends. There is always cops here,” he said.
The gunman was described as a tall black male in his early 20s who was thin and of average height. He had a dark complexion and was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers.
Paterson police ask anyone with information about the shooting to call Detective Lt. Ronald Humphrey at 973-321-1120.