Charles Frederick Sharp III had called the police to his home in southwest New Jersey in the middle of the night to report trespassers in his backyard. One was carrying a gun, Mr. Sharp, who spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, told a 911 dispatcher.
Within five seconds of arrival, a police officer had fired multiple shots, fatally wounding Mr. Sharp as he stood outside his home in Mantua, N.J., in September 2021, according to state officials and footage from body cameras worn by police officers.
Mr. Sharp, 49, was still on the phone with the police when he was struck.
On Wednesday, the state’s attorney general announced that a grand jury voted this week to take the rare step of indicting the officer, Salvatore Oldrati, on manslaughter charges.
Thomas J. Eicher, executive director of the attorney general’s public integrity office, said Officer Oldrati gave Mr. Sharp no verbal commands or warnings before opening fire. A “detailed replica” of a .45-caliber gun was found near Mr. Sharp, according to the attorney general’s office.
“Less than five seconds elapsed between when Officer Oldrati stepped out of his police vehicle and when he began firing at Mr. Sharp,” Mr. Eicher said in a statement.
Christopher St. John, Officer Oldrati’s lawyer, did not return calls or emails. Officials with the Mantua Police Department also did not return calls. If convicted, the officer faces 10 years in prison.
Mantua, a largely rural community in Gloucester County, is about 15 miles east of the Delaware River and the border of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Sharp, who had one son, was known as Chuck and was remembered as a “funny guy” and a talented carpenter who spent years working for a remodeling company in New Jersey after leaving the Air Force, according to his obituary.
In a five-minute call with two law enforcement officials on Sept. 14, 2021, Mr. Sharp told officers that he had spotted two men from his window at about 1 a.m. One was in his shed, holding a silver gun. The other was trying to get inside his truck.
He explained that he had thrown firecrackers toward the men to try to scare them away, but that had not worked. And he said that he owned a gun, passed down to him by his grandfather.
“I don’t know what I’m allowed to do with it,” he said in the recorded call. “So I threw a couple quarter sticks at them. Maybe that’s not the professional thing to do, but — ”
Then a burst of gunfire can be heard on the 911 recording.
Officer Oldrati is at least the second police officer this year to be criminally charged by New Jersey prosecutors for an on-duty shooting. In February, Jerry Moravek, a police officer with the Paterson Police Department, which was recently taken over by the state, was charged with aggravated assault after Khalif Cooper was shot in the back while running away from officers.
Mr. Cooper survived but his injuries left him paralyzed.
All fatal police encounters in New Jersey are investigated by the state’s attorney general’s office, and must be presented to a grand jury. Footage from body-worn cameras also must be released publicly.
Last month, a grand jury indicted two correction officers from Atlantic County’s jail on manslaughter charges in connection with the death of a detainee who had ingested methamphetamine and ecstasy and died after being punched and forcibly restrained at the lockup.
Kitty Bennett contributed research.