An off-duty Sussex County police officer who was accidentally killed while deer hunting on Tuesday was shot by an underage relative, authorites said.

Officer Jason Franco, 38, of Montague, was pronounced dead at the scene Tuesday after "an unintentional discharge of a weapon held by a juvenile" while deer hunting, according to Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna.

State Police determined the shooting to be accidental and "non-suspicious."

Authorities will not release the identity of the underage hunter and New Jersey 101.5 also generally does not publish identifying information of juveniles involved in investigations.

Sussex County First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller told New Jersey 101.5 that Franco and the relative were tracking the blood trail of a deer that had run into thick brush after being shot. The hunting party was in the woods in Wantage.

Ptl. Jason Franco and Ptl. Jordan Descafano
Ptl. Jason Franco. (Hamburg Borough Police via Facebook)

Franco was a member of the Hamburg police department since 2018,

He also had served as a volunteer firefighter in both Montague and Dingman's Ferry, Pennsylvania, as well as a hazardous materials technician for the Sussex County hazmat team, according to Sussex County PBA Local 138.

Franco's funeral is scheduled for Monday afternoon at the Pinkel Funeral Home at 31 Bank St., Sussex Borough.

A GoFundMe page was created to help with funeral expenses and to extend family health coverage beyond this month, according to the union.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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