An off-duty police officer was accidentally killed while deer hunting on Tuesday, officials said.

Officer Jason Franco, a 38-year-old who served with the Sussex County borough of Hamburg, was in a wooded area off Havens Road in Wantage when he was shot by his hunting partner in an "unfortunate hunting incident," according to Sussex County First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller.

Mueller said Franco and a relative were tracking the blood trail of a deer that had run into thick brush.

Mueller said no foul play is suspected.  A medical examiner will determine an official cause of death.

The state's black bear and deer hunting seasons for firearms began on Monday.

Franco was sworn onto the force in April 2018.

"I personally hired Officer Jason Franco in April of 2018. Before working here he was an officer with the William Paterson University Police Department," Hamburg police Lt. Jason Tangorra said in a written statement. "Jason Franco was loved by his family and his colleagues from all surrounding agencies. He came to work every day and just did his job. This was a complete tragedy and he will be missed."

State PBA President Patrick Colligan called Franco's death an "incredible tragedy."

"A very dedicated officer not only to his family but also to the community of Hamburg. He will be missed," Colligan said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The headline for an earlier version of this story should have said that the officer was deer hunting.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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