On Friday, May 19, 2023, at approximately 7:33 p.m., Deptford Township Police Patrol units were dispatched to the Deptford Mall for a report of a male who was allegedly harassing patrons and acting in a disorderly manner. Patrol Officer Anthony Gatto arrived a short time later and made contact with the male, who was now on the second level of the mall.
The male was asked to exit the property multiple times, to which he refused. The subject then allegedly became confrontational regarding his expulsion from the property. In an effort to remove the male, Gatto attempted to escort the male by guiding the subject by the arm. The male allegedly shoved Gatto’s hand away and refused to exit.
As the suspect was being placed under arrest for the offenses of defiant trespass and disorderly conduct, the suspect took a bladed, “fighting stance.” Gatto attempted to physically restrain the suspect, however the male was allegedly able to employ a “guillotine” choke hold on Gatto, effectively cutting off blood and oxygen supply of the officer.
While the suspect and the uniformed officer continued to struggle, a bystander was able to intercede and assisted Gatto with escaping the chokehold and getting the suspect into handcuffs. Officer Gatto suffered minor injuries during the incident and was treated by Gloucester County EMS.
The suspect was formally charged with several offenses including: criminal attempt (homicide), aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and defiant trespass. Criminal charges are mere allegations of wrongdoing. Every suspect is considered innocent unless, and until, convicted in a court of law. The male was subsequently lodged in Salem County Jail. Chief Joe Smith made the following statement in reference to this incident.
“Now, more than ever, we rely on the strength of community and the strength of each other. We value our relationships with the residents and stakeholders of Deptford Township, and we are thankful that a mall patron had the bravery to intervene and assist our officer. For that, I am forever grateful.”
This case is being investigated by Det. Eric Bailey of the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office and Det. Mike Tirado of the Deptford Township Police Department. You are asked to call (856)845-6300 or (856)845-2220 if you have any information regarding this incident.