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Cop suspected of killing five in rampage commits suicide
DOVER TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- A veteran police officer shot five neighbors to death, wounded his boss and then committed suicide, shocking a community still reeling from an almost identical rampage in February.
Authorities said Wednesday that the officer, Edward Lutes, 42, had apparently feuded with some of his neighbors in Dover Township. They did not elaborate, but a law enforcement source said that one of the victims was acquitted of sexual assaulting a member of Lutes' family. The source spoke on condition of anonymity.
"There was a great deal of acrimony between Mr. Lutes and his neighbors," prosecutor Greg Sakowicz said. "Certainly, it wasn't a random shooting."
Some acquaintances portrayed Lutes as the neighborhood grouch and said he had gone through bankruptcy several years ago and lost his girlfriend in a car accident about a year ago.
Police chief wounded
Authorities said Lutes went on his rampage Tuesday night, armed with a handgun and a semiautomatic assault gun called an MP5. He then drove 15 miles down the Jersey Shore to Barnegat Township, where he wounded his boss and then shot himself in the head as he sat in his car.
The body of the 17-year police officer, who worked in Seaside Heights, just a few miles from Dover Township, was found Wednesday morning.
The Dover Township shootings happened just a mile from where a retired Newark police officer, John Mabie, allegedly went from house to house, killing his granddaughter and three neighbors Feb. 21. He has pleaded innocent.
"To do something like that, they snap," said Karen Picht, who decided to walk her 12-year-old daughter to a bus stop Wednesday morning as the manhunt was still under way.
Police said Lutes went to the home of neighbors Dominick Galliano, 51, and his wife, Gail, 49, and killed them with the assault weapon. He also killed the couple's son, 25-year-old Christopher. Last year, a jury acquitted Dominick Galliano of charges of sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and engaging in lewd behavior.
Lutes then went to another home and killed Gary Williams, 48, and his wife, Tina, 46. The couple's 23-year-old son jumped out of a window.
Lutes fled to Barnegat Township, the home of Seaside Heights Police Chief James Costello.
Police said the chief was shot in the leg and wrist as he left home to respond to the shootings.
Costello was in satisfactory condition.
From his hospital room, he said he could not explain the rampage: "I really don't know. He's a very close friend of mine."
Dover Township Police Chief Michael Mastronardy said Lutes and a neighbor were involved in a criminal mischief case. He would not give details.
A 16-year-old neighbor, Christine Woldanski, said Lutes told a group of children in October to throw eggs at homes of two of his "enemies." She said Lutes told them: "If you guys don't do it, I'm going to do it later."
The children decided not to throw the eggs, Woldanski said.
Talia Garofano, 15, also recalled that night and said she saw Lutes throw eggs himself at the side of the Gallianos' home.
Lutes worked as a summer police officer and was a volunteer firefighter before becoming a full-time police officer in 1985 with the borough of 2,000 year-round residents.
Thomas Aballo, a lawyer who represented Lutes and his father in separate bankruptcy filings several years ago, said the shootings took him by surprise. He recalled Lutes discussing problems with a department supervisor several years ago, but said the officer did not pursue any legal action against the police.
"I never got the indication of anything but a dedicated officer and an overall good guy," Aballo said.
Seaside Heights Fire Chief Reece Fisher, who had known Lutes since the 1980s, said the officer was devastated when his girlfriend was killed. "He was able to come back to the job, but who is to say what was going on inside of him?" Fisher said.
Neighbors said Lutes lived with his 12-year-old daughter and other family members.
"He used to walk his dog down the street, and he'd say hello. He wouldn't go by without saying hello," Steve Rizzolo said.
Other neighbors described Lutes as a disciplinarian, saying he set strict rules about when the children in his house could eat snacks, how they could wash their hands and what toys they could play with.
"He'd stand with his mean face, just watering his lawn like he was having a bad, bad day, always," said Cara Reilly, 20.