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New Jersey Town Reels From a 2nd Deadly Gun Rampage

Crime: Police officer wounds his boss, kills five neighbors, himself. In February, four others were fatally shot nearby.

April 11, 2002|GERALDINE BAUM and JOHN J. GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

DOVER TOWNSHIP, N.J. — For the second time in less than two months, a man with police training has gone on a murderous rampage in this Jersey Shore community--shooting five people dead before turning the gun on himself.

Although the incidents are seemingly unrelated, residents in the quiet, middle-class neighborhood of small ranch houses and backyard basketball hoops were nonetheless shaken Wednesday.

"It's weird," said Laura Epstein, 37, who moved here recently. "It's a fairly nice place."

According to police, Edward Lutes, a 15-year veteran of the nearby Seaside Heights Police Department and a member of a regional SWAT team, emerged Tuesday night from his two-story Colonial house with a gun in his hand. He crossed the street, shot three neighbors in their home and then fired on two more people in the house next to his.

The dead were identified as Dominick Galliano, 51; his wife, Gail, 49; their son Christopher, 25; Gary Williams, 48; and his wife, Tina, 46. The Williams' son escaped by jumping out of a window. He injured his ankle.

Officials said that Lutes, 42, then took off in his 1995 Buick Regal with a handgun and a semiautomatic weapon. More than 100 law enforcement officers spent 12 hours searching for him. Streets were cordoned off with yellow police tape. Area residents were warned there was a "dangerous armed man on the loose." Rumors of what might be happening quickly spread throughout downtown restaurants.

"All the customers were coming in telling us that a cop went crazy," said Debbie Geiser, a waitress at a Denny's a few miles from Lutes' home.

Lutes turned up early Wednesday morning at the home of his boss, Seaside Heights Police Chief James Costello, and shot him three times--twice in the wrist and once in the leg--police said. Lutes fled, but soon was found in his parked car, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

From his hospital room, Costello said he was baffled by the shootings.

"I really don't know why," he told Associated Press. "He's a very close friend of mine."

Dover Township Police Chief Michael Mastronardy said Wednesday that Lutes had been involved in an Oct. 30 criminal mischief case and that there were other reports of neighborhood spats. But he also was portrayed as a dedicated officer and friendly guy.

Neighbor Mark Akalewicz, 39, said he often ran into Lutes when they were both out walking their dogs.

"He would say: 'How are you doing?' " Akalewicz said. About the coincidence of two shooting sprees in such a short period of time, he added: "There is no such place as Eden."

There was some speculation Wednesday that Lutes, who lived with his 12-year-old daughter and other family members, still was reeling from the death of a girlfriend in a car crash less than a year ago. Assistant Ocean County prosecutor Greg Sakowicz said that, while authorities had "suspicions about Lutes' motives," police were not prepared to speculate about what set him off.

Prosecutors still are searching for an explanation for the Feb. 21 killing rampage allegedly committed by John Mabie, a long-retired Newark police officer who lived about a mile from Lutes.

The 71-year-old Mabie, according to police, locked his wife in the basement of their home and walked out the door with a .38-caliber revolver. He first went down the street to his mother-in-law's house, where he allegedly shot and killed 22-year-old Natalie Gingerelli, who was said to be his favorite granddaughter. Then, police said, he went to each of his next-door neighbors' homes, fatally shooting Sue Keiran, 42, a single mother; Thomas Luyster, 27; and Luyster's fiancee, Suzanne Lavecchia, 27. He then returned home and put down his pistol, authorities said. He was arrested and remains in jail awaiting trial.

"It's very saddening to me and troublesome," said Wayne Rupert of the Ocean County Sheriff's Department. "In both cases, there was a traumatic event that took place in the past that might have festered within both of these police officers. But that really doesn't explain it for sure, does it?"

Mabie had been involved in the accidental death of a small child in 1971.

Wednesday's shootings occurred in a community of about 90,000 residents, many of them retirees from New York City and northern New Jersey. Across the bridge in Seaside Heights--which boasts one of the busiest boardwalks on the Eastern seaboard--the population triples in size every summer. But police work here mostly involves drunken revelers and minor car accidents. A spokesman for the county of about 500,000 said there usually are about a dozen murders a year.

*

Baum reported from New York and Goldman from New Jersey.

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