One charge dismissed in SERT team incident
Although the presence of the state police tactical unit and its armored vehicle suggested otherwise, it turns out that the incident that brought them to a White Township apartment complex last week was less serious than it seemed.
Nevertheless, Matthew B. Palmeri, 25, of the Spring Meadow apartments, still will have to account for the firing of a gun in his home on Jan. 28.
According to police, the incident occurred sometime around 12:30 a.m. as Palmeri and another man, Matthew Boone, a neighbor and acquaintance, were wrestling for control of a gun. The gun discharged during the scuffle, and the shot came close to striking Boone.
Boone fled, and an ensuing set of circumstances led state police to call in the Special Emergency Response Team, believing they might be dealing with a barricaded gunman who had access to several weapons.
Six hours later, Palmeri was taken into custody without a struggle, ending a perceived standoff.
Charged with a felony count of aggravated assault, misdemeanor counts of simple assault and reckless endangerment and a summary count of harassment, Palmeri appeared Thursday before District Judge Guy Haberl for a scheduled preliminary hearing.
He waived the proceeding, and prosecutors dropped the most serious charge against him — the count of aggravated assault. Also, Haberl agreed to reduce Palmeri’s bond, dropping it to $50,000. Palmeri already had been freed from jail, having posted a $100,000 cash bond Haberl originally set.
Palmeri’s defense attorney, Bob Muir, said it turns out that there was no standoff. And the incident appears to have been largely rooted in Palmeri and Boone’s alcohol consumption — police said the two had been doing shots of liquor together in Palmeri’s apartment prior to the incident.
Police initially said Palmeri became agitated when his dog urinated on the carpet sometime after 12:15 a.m.
However, Muir said a witness told police that he did not see the dog urinate on the carpet, adding that the dog had nothing to do with incident.
But whatever the case, police said Boone told them he decided to take the dog to his apartment, and when he returned, he found Palmeri standing in a hallway, holding a semiautomatic handgun. Boone asked Palmeri to drop the gun, but Palmeri would not, police said.
Boone then approached Palmeri and tried to grab the gun. They began wrestling over it, and the gun accidentally discharged, Muir said.
Muir said Palmeri did not point the gun at Boone, nor did he intend to fire a round.
After the shot went off, Palmeri dropped the gun, and the scuffle resumed, according to the criminal complaint. Boone eventually shoved Palmeri onto a couch and held him down while calling 911. Palmeri, however, broke free, and Boone left the residence, police said.
When police arrived at the apartment complex, they began trying to contact Palmeri, unsuccessfully. Believing that they may be dealing with a barricaded gunman who had access to firearms, police summoned the SERT team, which spent the next six hours outside the apartment trying to reach Palmeri.
But Palmeri didn’t respond, Muir said, because he was, by then, sound asleep and oblivious to the commotion outside.
“It was not a standoff,” Muir said.
A ringing phone eventually awoke Palmeri, Muir said. Upon learning that police wanted a word with him, he promptly exited his residence, Muir said, and was taken into custody.
Muir said the earlier reports that Palmeri had assault weapons in the home were misleading. He said Palmeri collects guns, and although he, in fact, had guns in his apartment, he was in possession of nothing illegal and was properly permitted.
“Nothing there was illegal or improper,” Muir said.
At the time of Palmeri’s arrest, police said they believed he had an AK-47, an M4 assault rifle and a semiautomatic shotgun. Muir said he could not accurately say what types of guns Palmeri owns, but none of them, other than the handgun, were involved in the incident.