TRENTON — A state grand jury on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 voted to file a criminal charge against a Mantua Township police officer in connection with the death of Charles Sharp III, 49, of Mantua, N.J., who was shot and fatally wounded by the officer on September 14, 2021.
Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced that the grand jury returned an indictment against Salvatore Oldrati charging him with one count of manslaughter.
“Mr. Sharp was shot multiple times outside his own home by one of the very officers he had called upon for help. His life was cut short seconds after Officer Oldrati arrived at the scene, while Mr. Sharp was still on the phone with a police dispatcher,” said Attorney General Platkin. “When residents call 9-1-1 for service, they are concerned, they need assistance, they seek protection — and they trust the officers responding to their calls will respond accordingly and help them. Tragically, that did not happen here.”
“Less than five seconds elapsed between when Officer Oldrati stepped out of his police vehicle and when he began firing at Mr. Sharp.” said Thomas J. Eicher, Executive Director of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability. “Officer Oldrati gave no verbal commands or warnings before shooting Mr. Sharp. The grand jury determined that his conduct was not justified and warranted the return of an indictment for manslaughter.”
The fatal police encounter was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to the grand jury in accordance with Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive,” issued in 2019. In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (“SOPs”) to ensure these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, and with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the Independent Prosecutor Directive.
The investigation of this officer-involved death included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, review of video footage, and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury concluded its deliberations on Monday, May 23, 2023, and voted “true bill,” determining that a criminal charge against the officer was warranted.
According to the investigation, on September 14, 2021, at approximately 1:38 a.m., two uniformed officers of the Mantua Township Police Department arrived at a residence located on Elm Avenue in Mantua, N.J., in response to a 9-1-1 call from the homeowner, Charles Sharp III. During the 9-1-1 call, Mr. Sharp reported two burglars in his rear yard, one of whom was armed with a handgun. This information was relayed to the responding officers by the 9-1-1 dispatcher prior to their arrival at Mr. Sharp’s home. Mr. Sharp remained on the line with the 9-1-1 dispatcher and was standing in the front yard of his residence when officers arrived.
Oldrati arrived to the scene shortly after Cpl. Robert Layton arrived in a separate police vehicle. While Oldrati was exiting his police vehicle, Cpl. Layton yelled, “he’s got a handgun on him, right there.” Oldrati fired his service weapon multiple times and struck Mr. Sharp multiple times. Layton did not discharge his service weapon. Officers and emergency medical personnel rendered aid to Mr. Sharp, who was later pronounced dead at the hospital. A replica .45-caliber firearm was recovered near Mr. Sharp.
The 9-1-1 recording and Oldrati’s BWC were previously released and are posted online: Click here for the recordings.
If convicted, Oldrati could face up to 10 years in New Jersey State Prison. Pursuant to the “No Early Release Act,” Oldrati would have to serve 85 percent of the overall sentence, during which he would be ineligible for parole.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations of a person’s death during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody. It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved.
A conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation. Prior to presentation to the grand jury, the investigation was reviewed by OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations in the SOPs.
The Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website at this link:
Further information about how fatal police encounters are investigated in New Jersey under the directive is found at this link:
For Oldrati: Christopher St. John, Esq.