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Suspect Who Stabbed Cop During Hostage Situation At Pharmacy Is Career Criminal

Keansburg, NJ – The suspect who repeatedly stabbed a veteran Keansburg police officer during a hostage situation at a pharmacy on Jan. 6 was a career criminal who served at least one stint in prison.

New Jersey Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck put out a statement Tuesday identifying the suspect involved in the Jan. 6 attack as 55-year-old James Sutton.

The violet incident began inside the Keansburg Pharmacy located at 199 Main Street at approximately 3:21 p.m., the Asbury Park Press reported.

Multiple citizens called 911 to report a robbery-in-progress at the business, Bruck’s office said in a statement later that night.

“When officers arrived, Mr. Sutton was holding a large knife and threatening to harm an employee of the pharmacy,” Bruck confirmed Tuesday.

During the ensuing confrontation, the suspect stabbed one of the Keansburg Police Department (KPD) officers.

KPD Officer Jillian Putkowski, Detective Richard Johnson, and Detective Christopher Rogan opened fire on the suspect, who died from his wounds at the scene, according to Bruck.

The officer who was stabbed was rushed to Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, the Asbury Park Press reported.

He underwent multiple surgeries and is still recovering, according to the Middletown Patch.

“It is not a life-threatening injury,” Keansburg Mayor Andrew Hoff previously told the news outlet. “But he was stabbed in his wrist, and his left elbow was shattered. He needed an eight- to nine-hour surgery on Saturday and just went in for his second surgery Monday morning. We are all thinking of him.”

The injured officer has been with the KPD for 10 years, Hoff noted.

Bruck said the investigation into the fatal officer-involved shooting remains ongoing.

Sutton’s criminal history extends back nearly 35 years, according to the Daily Voice.

His list of prior arrests included offenses of aggravated assault, burglary, drug offenses, criminal mischief, violating domestic violence restraining orders, driving while intoxicated, shoplifting, fighting in public, and forgery, among others, the Asbury Park Press reported.

According to municipal court records, Sutton was convicted of possessing a weapon as a convicted person in 2013.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for that offense, with parole eligibility in five years, according to the Asbury Park Press.

It is unclear how much time he actually served behind bars.

A man who described himself as being one of Sutton’s close friends said the suspect had struggled with addiction and mental illness, WCBS reported.

But he insisted the suspect “wasn’t using” drugs at the time of the incident.

“He seemed happy,” the unnamed friend told WCBS. “He was there to get medicine, and he was told ‘no’ for whatever reason.”

One of the suspect’s friends told WCBS that no one was to blame for the deadly hostage situation.

“I want to give respect to the police and want to give respect to the addicts because it’s not our faults and ain’t their faults,” the friend claimed.

Sutton’s family member, Linnel Fay, told the Asbury Park Press Sutton “was a wonderful man,” but acknowledged that “he had problems.”

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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