Officials have determined that two Toms River Police Department officers acted appropriately when they shot a man who attacked an officer after hiding in a closet during a welfare check.
The shooting took place March 14, 2017, in the Silver Ridge condominium complex at about 12:30 p.m. The officers, Mark DeGrandis and Francis Bopp, went to the apartment at 190 Edgewood Drive to conduct a well-being check of Christopher Apostolus, who they had been unable to locate for the prior three days. Apostolus, 56, was ultimately shot several times while engaged in a struggle with DeGrandis.
According to a report released Thursday by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, the officers, on their fourth attempt to check on Apostolus, finally decided to enter the residence after being given a key by an apartment complex employee. The officers announced who they were multiple times, the report said, before and after entering. They initially did not find Apostolus, but suspected he was somewhere in the unit since there was a pot of warm beans on the stove and a television was on. After eliminating several hiding places, DeGrandis noticed one closet had not yet been checked.
According to the report, when DeGrandis began to open the closet door, Apostolus flung the door open and “burst out of the closet screaming and grabbed [DeGrandis] by the neck with one hand while his other hand reached for [DeGrandis’] duty weapon.”
DeGrandis fired three times during the struggle, striking Apostolus twice, the investigation found. DeGrandis told investigators he was afraid Apostolus was going to overpower him and take his weapon.
Meanwhile, Bopp was in the hallway area next to the bathroom. The investigation found that Bopp was initially blocked from the fracas when the bathroom door hit his foot and prevented him from moving forward. He did, however, see his partner backed up against a bathtub with Apostolus’ hand around the officer’s neck and grabbing for the gun. Eventually, Bopp was able to get a clear shot and took it, ending the struggle.
Apostolus was pronounced dead a short time later.
Ultimately, the state Attorney General and Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato determined that “the undisputed facts establish that the Toms River Township police officers used the appropriate force necessary to protect their lives and, furthermore, that the officers were legally justified in that use of force.”
The case will not be presented to a grand jury.
As part of the investigation, detectives interviewed employees at the housing complex. Shortly before the incident, a property manager said Apostolus came to her and asked if, in the case of his sudden death, his brother could access the apartment to retrieve his belongings. When they property manager replied that the brother would not be allowed access, Apostolus returned with a notarized letter. The property manager “felt it was like a suicide note,” the report said.