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Officials: Backhoe driver damaged homes, vehicles, was shot

December 26, 2021 GMT

VINELAND, N.J. (AP) — The state attorney general’s office is investigating the shooting death of a man authorities say was driving a backhoe when he damaged vehicles and homes at a mobile home park in New Jersey this month.

Joshua Gonzalez, 20, of Millville was the man shot by a Vineland police officer in the early morning confrontation on Dec. 18 at the Penn Lincoln Mobile Home Park in Vineland, authorities said last week.

Officers were dispatched after a 911 caller reported someone “operating a construction backhoe in an erratic manner,” officials said. Several officers encountered Gonzalez operating the backhoe around 5 a.m. and tried to stop him for about half an hour, without success.

During that time, “Gonzalez caused extensive damage to several residences and vehicles, including two police cars, an ambulance, and an occupied civilian vehicle,” the attorney general’s office said.

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The officer fired his service weapon, and officers and emergency medical personnel rendered first aid before Gonzalez was pronounced dead at the scene less than 20 minutes later. Three Vineland officers were treated for minor injuries.

Theresa Jeffrey told KYW-TV that she was headed to work that Saturday morning when the piece of construction equipment barreled toward her and totaled her red sedan.

“I’m just so traumatized, and I can’t stop crying about it,” Jeffrey said shortly afterward. “Like, it’s very scary when you see a bulldozer just like coming at you and hitting your car,” Jeffrey said.

The attorney general’s office is required to investigate deaths that occur during encounters with law enforcement.