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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    Find out who landed on 1st, 2nd and 3rd Team All-State.

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    50 of the new officers are from Ocean and Middlesex counties Watch video

    The N.J. Department of Corrections added 150 officers to its ranks during a graduation ceremony Monday morning at Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton.

    The graduates of Class 242 come from 17 of New Jersey's 21 counties, with 27 of them from Ocean County, and 23 from Middlesex County.

    The rest of the officers and their county of residence:

    Atlantic, 4; Bergen, 14; Burlington, 7; Camden, 5; Cumberland, 2; Essex, 18; Gloucester, 3; Hudson, 9; Mercer, 4; Monmouth, 11; Morris, 3; Passaic 10; Somerset, 1; Sussex, 3; and Union, 6.

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    The cause of the break was under investigation

    Police shut down the Five Points intersection in Hamilton's Mercerville neighborhood to vehicle traffic at about 1:30 p.m. Monday due to a gas line break.

    Utility crews were still on scene at the intersection after 5 p.m. and police said the closure could last into the evening.

    The cause of the break was under investigation, PSE&G said.

    Police officers were detouring traffic in the area. The employees of a bank, closest to the incident at Nottingham Way and Edinburgh Road, were evacuated, officials said.

    Quakerbridge Road and White Horse Avenue also run through the intersection, home to the Mercerville Fire Co. / Fire District 2, as well as popular bars JoJo's Tavern and Bill's Olde Tavern.

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    Things are going to stay just as confusing as they've always been.

    Tradition has triumphed over clearing up confusion in one of the 6 N.J. municipalities with Franklin in their name.

    The proposed renaming of Franklin Township, in Hunterdon County, to Franklin Hills drew little support in a month-long, online survey and the mayor says no further discussions are planned.

    Only 74 residents who responded to the non-binding survey hosted by PlanetCivic said they would support a new name, while 131 were opposed, Mayor Craig Repmann said Monday.

    The 205 responses represented only a small fraction of the township's 3,000 residents.

    There are four Franklin Townships in N.J, including municipalities in Somerset, Warren and Gloucester counties. Moreover, there is a Franklin Borough in Sussex County and a Franklin Lakes in Bergen County.

    Repmann, via an email on Monday, said he did not take a position on the proposal. It originated from a presentation at a Franklin Township Committee meeting in December 2016.

    Dozens of N.J.'s 565 municipalities share the same name. There are five Washington Townships -- a sixth was in Mercer County until a decade ago when voters approved a new change to Robbinsville.

    PlanetCivic, which conducted the Franklin Township survey, is a 2-year-old company whose selling point is that relatively few attend municipal meetings and additional outreach is needed to form conclusions.

    It was awarded a one-year, $499 contract in November 2017 by the Township Committee, with an expectation of gauging public interest on a wide range of topics.

    The proposed name change raised nearly a year earlier was the first question asked, which Repmann previously said caught him by surprise.

    Participation in the survey was limited to Franklin Township residents and business owners.

    Repmann said no decision has been made on whether to pursue additional survey questions.

    Rob Jennings may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RobJenningsNJ. Find on Facebook.

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    It was known as Harry's Army and Navy back then, founded by a World War II vet who parlayed a gig selling surplus items from his own truck at local flea markets into a flourishing business catering to hunters and fishermen.

    For sale: denim jeans by the shelves-full, toy cars, T-shirts, fishing gear and history - lots and lots of history.

    Almost seven decades worth, to be exact.

    Harry's Outdoor, the Trenton-area emporium that has drawn sports lovers and camping enthusiasts since its founding in 1949, will soon shut its doors for good.

    It was known as Harry's Army and Navy back then, founded by a World War II vet who parlayed a gig selling surplus items from his own truck at local flea markets into a flourishing business catering to hunters and fishermen - and ultimately into an outdoor-gear shop known far and wide.

    Harry Mehr's son Rick joined the business in 1972, expanding the existing inventory and stocking paddle sports equipment, work boots and casual clothing. The younger Mehr also was on board when his dad added 7,000 square feet to the existing building on Route 130 in Hamilton.

    "We evolved into the largest hunting store in New Jersey through the 60s, 70s and 80s, and then about 10 years ago we sold our whole hunting business off," Rick Mehr said, recalling the store's evolution over the years.

    In 2009, the store moved from its original location to be part of the newly built Deer Path Pavilion, and two years ago, Harry's Army Navy morphed into Harry's Outdoor.

    Inside the new Starbucks in downtown Trenton

    But now Mehr is following in the hiking boots of other small-shop owners who have come - and gone - before him.

    Whether they're closing because no daughter or son is available (or willing) to take over the business, or because they're feeling the bite of e-merchants, the demise of these stores leaves a hole in our collective Main Streets.

    And not just in the physical sense.

    We also lose something intangible when we shop on line or at the big-box stores. Call it personalized service, call it one-to-one interaction with the neighborhood store owner who probably went to school with your kid or volunteers with your community's rescue squad on the rare day off.

    The decline of these small businesses is not newsworthy, or even new. Between 1967 and 1972, the number of mom-and-pop stores in operation nationally dropped from 90,000 to a little over 65,000, according to the Spokesman-Review newspaper. And those remaining grappled with an increasingly competitive business environment.

    Progress is good, but it often comes at a cost.

    While Harry's Outdoor is still open, you can scoop up much of its inventory at a deep discount. Even the statue of Uncle Sam and the combat soldier figure standing guard outside the store's front doors are for sale.

    But you can't put a price tag on history, and that's what we'll lose when those doors close for good.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.

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    A car in a Mercer County shopping complex is stuck behind large snow pile after plow trucks surrounded the Honda Civic

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    The final boys basketball Top 50 for the 2017-18 season

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    Police do not believe there are any hostages inside the Panera Bread. Nearby businesses and two Princeton University buildings were evacuated Watch video

    UPDATE: Police have shot and killed the man who took over the Panera Bread in Princeton.

    Police have surrounded a Panera Bread across the street from Princeton University's campus Tuesday morning in a standoff with an armed man inside the eatery, authorities said.

    The situation began unfolding about 10 a.m. when officers arrived with guns drawn and crouched behind vehicles on Nassau Street, a block from Princeton University's Nassau Hall.

    "We're currently negotiating with an armed subject (inside Panera)," Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter said. He said the FBI and State Police were assisting.

    Asked if there were hostages in the building, Sutter declined to comment.

    Nassau Street was shut down between Washington and Witherspoon, as nearby businesses were evacuated. Princeton University evacuated Henry House and Scheide Caldwell House, the two campus buildings closest to the restaurant.

    "It is not known whether the gunman has any connection to the University," Princeton University said in a statement on its website. "Classes are not in session, as this is the week of spring break."

    Some members of the university received an erroneous phone call indicating that shots have been fired, but Princeton officials issued an update to clear up the confusion. "NO SHOTS WERE FIRED; THERE IS NO SHELTER-IN-PLACE order. Continue to avoid the area," Princeton University tweeted.

    Attach0.jpgPrinceton police keep people away from the Panera Bread on Nassau Street as they negotiate with an armed man in the eatery.

    Tom Morrison, a retired sheriff's deputy from Kern County, California, said he was in Starbucks nearby on Nassau Street when he saw the police arrive.

    "I ran outside to get some of the people who came to look behind the perimeter," Morrison said. "The police were operating with efficiency. They were putting up the perimeter pretty fast."

    Troy said she saw people leaving the Panera.

    "I did see one elderly man exit Panera bread he was OK but he looked confused and then more and more police came and the area still blockaded," Troy said.

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find on Facebook.


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    The FBI is investigating a Trenton police officer for excessive force Watch video

    The suspect has his hands up, is no longer running and appears willing to surrender. A police officer holds him at gunpoint through a chain-link fence.

    But then, Trenton police officer Anthony Villanueva launches toward the suspect and takes him down with a roundhouse punch to the head.

    A scuffle ensues, which other Trenton patrol officers join.

    Chanzie Washington, soaking wet and muddy from swimming across a dank canal in Trenton following a chase with officers, is eventually led away in cuffs.

    A month earlier, across town, Villanueva arrests Salaam Felton following an over-fences, through-backyards foot pursuit near Gladstone Avenue.

    When Felton ditches a piece of clothing, and blends into the neighborhood,  Villanueva spots him and runs toward him, full tilt. He decks him from behind and delivers several blows to his head.

    "What are you punching me for, yo?" Felton says as Villanueva cuffs him on the sidewalk.

    Police officer taken off streets amid excessive force accusations

    Later, during a walk through of the chase - in which Felton apparently threw a handgun, which police recovered - Villanueva takes a phone call and brags about the bust.

    "He did not see me coming," Villanueva says. "He thought he got away."

    "I snuck up from behind him and just punched him, he just fell," Villanueva says. Then he mocks Felton, quoting him, "You didn't got to punch me man."

    The arrests, in March and April of 2017, are central to a federal excessive force investigation into Villanueva by the FBI, which Mercer County authorities confirmed last week.

    In his reporting on the Washington arrest, Villanueva writes that Washington refused several commands to put his hands behind his back. "While struggling to handcuff Washington, I struck him about the face with a closed fist in order to gain control."

    In the Felton arrest, Villanueva wrote in his report that he "closed the gap" on Felton. "Once close enough, I tackled Felton onto the ground in an effort to gain control of him."

    He did not document the punches. 

    Villanueva did file Use of Force reports for both incidents. He checked a "resisted police officer control" for both arrests.

    NJ Advance Media obtained police body camera footage of both arrests - Felton in March 2017 and Washington in April 2017 - through public records requests. The footage accompanying this story has been edited to include both arrests.

    Two law enforcement sources have said the footage from the arrests spurred a further look into Villanueva's actions.

    Prosecutor's later dropped the criminal charges against both suspects.

    Trenton police officials and the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office have declined to elaborate on Villanueva. And the FBI said they do not confirm or deny the existence or nonexistence of an investigation.

    Villanueva was suspended without pay in early February.

    George Dougherty, Villanueva's attorney, said he's seen footage of the Washington arrest, and he wants to know why his client is being singled out publicly, since others were involved in the scuffle with Washington.

    "I trust that (federal authorities) will be equal handed about this," Dougherty said.

    Dougherty plans a vigorous defense, with experts, and said: "Let's see how this shakes out."

    Dougherty had not seen footage of the Felton arrest.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find on Facebook.


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    A man who entered a Princeton Panera Bread with a gun Tuesday morning was shot dead by police after a five-hour standoff, the Attorney General's office said. Watch video

    A man who entered a Princeton Panera Bread with a gun Tuesday morning was shot dead by police after a five-hour standoff, the Attorney General's office said.

    Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the office, said that police "fatally shot a man who entered a restaurant with a gun, leading to a lengthy standoff with officers."

    He did not identify the agency of the officer or officers who fired their weapons. He said the Attorney General's Shooting Response Team is conducting the investigation.

    NBC reported that a state police officer fired a weapon. 

    Negotiators in a large contingent of police talked with the man beginning shortly after he entered the Panera Bread on Nassau Street at 10 a.m. They remained outside throughout the day. Panera employees and customers fled through a back entrance early in the day, officials said.

    Aseltine said a preliminary investigation shows that "negotiators attempted unsuccessfully to get the suspect to surrender peacefully. The standoff ended shortly before 3 p.m. when the suspect was fatally shot by police."

    The man was pronounced dead at the scene, and his name was not released.

    No other injuries were reported. 

    Sophie Nieto-Munoz may be reached at Follow her at @snietomunoz. Find on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us.

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    The National Weather Service is calling for up to 18 inches of snow in some spots and the vast majority of the state could see at least 8 inches Watch video

    With another significant storm expected to hit New Jersey with up to 18 inches of snow, high winds and coastal flooding, school districts across the state announced school closures and delays for Wednesday, March 21.

    The following Mercer County school districts have made announcements for Wednesday, March 21:


    • The College of New Jersey
    • Mercer Community College
    • Rider University
    • Thomas Edison State University
    • Children's Day School
    • East Windsor Regional School District
    • Ewing Public Schools
    • Foundation Academy Charter School
    • Hamilton Township School District
    • Hopewell Valley Regional School District
    • International Charter School of Trenton
    • Katzenbach School for the Deaf
    • Lawrence Township School District
    • Mercer County Special Services School District
    • Mercer County Technical Schools
    • Princeton Friends School
    • Princeton Public Schools
    • Princeton Theological Seminary
    • Robbinsville Public School District
    • STEMCivics Charter School
    • Trenton Public Schools
    • Trenton STEM-to-civics Charter School
    • Village Charter School
    • Waldorf School of Princeton
    • West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District


    • No announcements yet

    If you know of any delays or closures not on this list, let us know in the comments.

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    See the final Top 50 teams in N.J. girls basketball this year.

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    16 All-State stars, plus a bunch of All-Group players from 2017 are back this season.

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    Scott Mielentz, 56, was shot and killed after police negotiators spent several hours trying without success to convince him to "surrender peacefully," authorities said. Watch video

    State authorities have identified the man killed by police after an armed standoff at a Panera Bread restaurant in Princeton on Tuesday.

    Scott Mielentz, 56, was shot and killed after police negotiators spent several hours trying without success to convince him to "surrender peacefully," according to a statement from the Attorney General's Office.

    Mielentz, who formerly lived in Newtown, Pa., and recently resided in Lawrenceville, was pronounced dead at the scene.

    The tense standoff began around 10 a.m. Tuesday, when police were seen crouched with their guns drawn behind vehicles on Nassau Street, a block from Princeton University's Nassau Hall.

    Customers and employees were able to escape the building, authorities said, but Mielentz remained inside. He was shot and killed by police shortly before 3 p.m., according to the Attorney General's Office.

    The incident is being investigated by the attorney general's Shooting Response Team, which oversees police shooting investigations and, in most cases, presents the evidence to a grand jury for review.

    Authorities declined to identify the officers involved.

    S.P. Sullivan may be reached at Follow him on Twitter. Find on Facebook.


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    Kevin Meara remains on a journey started by the overdose death of his son, and now is having a bit of fun. Watch video

    The death of his son KC to a heroin overdose nearly 10 years ago sent Hamilton resident Kevin Meara on a journey from father and local politician to addiction activist.

    He started the nonprofit, recovery advocacy City of Angels, a role that has put him in the living rooms of families grieving over the loss of a daughter or son, who sometimes overdosed just a room away.

    And funerals, he's been to lots of funerals, and experienced the hugs, sobs and sympathies that accompany them.

    Lately, the journey has taken him back to the White House and he's having a bit of fun with it.

    Like hitting up President Donald Trump for a selfie. Done.

    He tried with Vice President Mike Pence - that one did not work out. "Bad lighting," Meara joked.

    It's time, Meara said, to enjoy the journey. "We call it laughing through the tears."

    He's not making light of anything. He took the microphone March 1 at a White House Opioid Summit and said, "I am not a professional. I am just a dad who buried his son."

    But he also paused at one moment and shared a New Jersey moment with Garden State native Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, drawing a smile from her too. (See the clip below; Meara is introduced at the 3:20 mark.)

    Meara was at the White House in October, when the president declared opioids a national crisis, and was invited back for the March 1 summit. That's when he hit up Trump for a selfie.

    "Yeah, real fast," Trump said.

    "They've been very open and receptive to 'the parents,' " Meara said of Trump's administration. "The parents," he said, are those who lost a child to addiction.

    Then, last week, he got another White House invite for Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's visit - a score for Meara, an Irishman active with Irish heritage efforts in the Trenton area. (Varadkar has family in New Jersey, by the way.)

    That's when he tried for a Pence selfie - he got it, but it was blurry.

    whtoilet.jpegA White House toilet.

    He also took a picture of a White House toilet. Really, someone might want to see what it looked like, he said. "If it will make someone laugh."

    It's all part of a plan. Having fun at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. arms Meara with humorous stories when he goes to funerals, or meets with parents just starting on the journey.

    "I can smile right now," Meara said.

    "Those parents won't be smiling for a long, long time."

    Meara also met with former President Bill Clinton (and Vice President Al Gore), as well as former President George W. Bush, for political trips, the latter as part of Northern Ireland peace efforts.

    He also met with former President Barack Obama at the White House in 2016, about addiction, and was able to speak with him briefly one-on-one.

    "I am just a Trenton kid whose father died at the age of 14. I had no godfather in politics, I've scratched and fought for it, and I have been very blessed," said Meara, a former Hamilton councilman.

    At the White House, on March 1, Meara told officials about his son, KC, who died at the age of 24. He can smile, but he can sum up his journey with deadly seriousness.

    "It's just hard to fathom that my journey has taken us from his bedroom, where we lost him, to the East Room of the White House," he said.

    "I'd trade it for five more minutes with him - just five."

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find on Facebook.

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    A look at some snowy scenes from Trenton, Lawrence, Princeton and Hamilton.

    The 4th nor'easter in 3 weeks arrived a little later than first projected.

    In Mercer County, it rained overnight and the change to snow didn't happen in most parts here until late morning.

    Wet snow gave way to heavier flakes as the day progressed. 

    Total accumulation in our area is projected to total between 6-8 inches according to a mid-afternoon National Weather Service report.

    When will it end? 

    Thursday is expected to be cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 43.

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso Find on Facebook.

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    New Jersey was hit with its fourth major storm in as many weeks Watch video

    With another significant storm hitting New Jersey Wednesday with snow, high winds and coastal flooding, districts across the state announced school closures and delays for Thursday, March 22.

    The following Mercer County school districts have made announcements for Thursday, March 22:


    • Foundation Academy Charter School
    • STEMCivics Charter School
    • Trenton Public Schools


    • No announcements yet

    If you know of any delays or closures not on this list, let us know in the comments.

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    Some Princeton University students are looking to shake up the system, arguing that in many cases the punishment - a one-year suspension for a first-time offender, total expulsion the next time - does not fit the crime.

    Honor codes, a learning tool at many high schools and institutions, are designed to instill academic integrity and foster a sense of responsibility among students.

    The premise is simple: Students take a pledge not to cheat - on final exams, for example - and to report anyone who does. In exchange, professors agree not to monitor exams.

    At Princeton, an honor code has been in force since 1893. Anyone accused of gaming the system is reported to an Honor Committee: fellow students who investigate the accusations and hand down sentences when the charges are found to have merit.

    But now some students are looking to shake up the system, arguing that in many cases the punishment - a one-year suspension for a first-time offender, total expulsion the next time - does not fit the crime.

    The issue has divided the student body, as well as members of the faculty.

    More than 64 percent of undergraduates voted in a series of referenda last fall, according to the Princetonian student newspaper - a figure that puts voter turnout for national elections to shame.

    Princeton students want a softer penalty for cheating.

    Students opted overwhelmingly to change the obligatory one-year suspension to disciplinary probation, meaning students would be able to continue taking classes unless they are caught violating the code again.

    "We are not talking about slaps on the wrist," says Justin Ziegler, a 2016 graduate who served on the Honor Committee said about the rule as it stands now. "You have a scarlet letter on your transcript in perpetuity. ... This is something that follows you."

    Proponents of the change believe not only that the existing punishment is draconian, but also that those charged with doling out justice are ignoring the nuances of specific cases.

    In one instance, they point out, a student who fled an exam room with an anxiety attack found herself suspended because she took test with her on the way to vomiting in a ladies' room.

    An honor code is only as strong as the students who adhere to it, as well as those who administer it.

    If justice is meted out with no regard to extenuating circumstances, that system is doomed to fail. An honor committee that lumps all violations in the same category is one that punishes but does not teach.

    The university's administration has established a committee to study the requests for code revisions, with recommendations due sometime this semester.

    Like any social pact, an honor code should be subject to review when the various signatories feel it necessary. As they ponder, Princeton's leaders should keep in mind not only the institution's reputation for high standards, but also the needs of the students they are in charge of educating.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.


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    Unquestionably, this gallery SHOULD go on and on.

    To be certain, reference books should provide a more balanced view of the historical contributions made by women. 

    Writing for in 2016, Anita Sarkeesian and Laura Hudson pointed out that "if we were to judge by the history books, it would be easy to think that men were pretty much the only people who mattered in history -- or at least, the only ones worth remembering. That isn't true, of course, but that's the story we're accustomed to hearing about the past: one where the presence of men is taken as a given, and the presence of women is exceptional." 

    As an example, history books refer to "Molly Pitcher" as a person in New Jersey, usually Mary Ludwig Hayes, who assisted her husband and others in the Continental Army by carrying water to soldiers in battle and helping the wounded and injured. But notes that "there is some debate among historians as to who the 'real' Molly Pitcher was. Most believe that the title is a composite character of all of the women who fought in and supported the Continental Army."

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    There were likely scores of "Molly Pitchers" during the Revolutionary War, yet they were summed up in history books by one character, while heroic men were remembered as individuals. 

    As Sarkeesian and Hudson noted, "Regardless of what our cultural narratives tell us, women as leaders, heroes and rebels isn't unrealistic -- either now or throughout history. It's reality -- just not a reality we get to hear about often enough." 

    In this gallery, we highlight just a handful of women from New Jersey who have impacted history, including computer pioneer and Navy officer Grace Hopper, agricultural scientist Elizabeth Coleman White, playwright Ntozake Shange and entertainer Dionne Warwick. Unquestionably, this gallery could go on and on.

    And here are links to other galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of women and the war effort in N.J.

    Vintage N.J. photos that are works of art

    Vintage photos from N.J. that are works of art

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    Who are some of the top athletes returning for the 2018 track and field season?

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