OLD BRIDGE – Police should not have killed a knife-wielding suicidal man who had threatened his wife and son, his family is now saying in a lawsuit against this township.

Police shot Talbot Schroeder, 75, in his home on Jan. 14, 2015, after receiving a 911 call from his family.

Although the police were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, Schroeder's family believe cops shot Schroeder needlessly after spending just a minute in the home.

In a report from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, two officers, identified in the lawsuit as Nicholas Schulmeister and Keith Symanski, responded to the call and were told that Schroeder had stabbed himself in the stomach.

The prosecutor said Schulmeister found Schroeder on the floor with the knife in his hand and ordered him to drop it. Schroeder reportedly replied "no," and acted as if he was going to throw the knife at the officer, causing Schulmeister to seek cover in the stairwell. When Schroeder started walking toward the officer with the knife the prosecutor's review said he ignored several orders to drop the knife.

Also according to the prosecutor, Symanski had entered the home by this time and heard the orders to drop the knife. Schulmeister then shot Schroeder before Symanski could get any closer to the scene.

In the lawsuit filed last month in Superior Court in Middlesex County, the family claims Schroeder's wife told Schulmeister her husband "was downstairs, was injured, and suffered from various debilitating illnesses and conditions."

They claim the use of excessive force, and also allege that because the two officers and others involved failed to recognize "techniques and police procedures to handle and defuse the situation, the matter escalated into an unnecessary shooting."

The family also claims that the officers involved, "were poorly trained and evidenced a reckless disregard and indifference to the likelihood of severe injury" when it came to responding to the situation and addressing their approach to Schroeder.

A review of Schulmeister's records after the shooting showed he had completed all the mandatory fire arms and use-of-force training, prosecutors said.

The investigation determined the use of force was "justifiable," as Schroeder had ignored commands to drop the knife and had already showed he was willing and able to use the knife after hurting himself. With Schulmeister having nowhere else to go, the use of force was acceptable if he believed he was in danger of being hurt or killed, prosecutors said.

In addition to the officers and the township, Chief William A. Volkert is also named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit faults the department for not properly training officers in how to handle situations involving emotionally disturbed people.

The lawsuit says police violated Schroeder's constitutional rights and seeks an unspecified amount of damages, including for the cost of the funeral and burial and for his widow's loss of financial support and companionship from her late husband.

The family is represented by Dean Maglione, of the Maglione firm in Newark, who did not return a request for comment.

Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com

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