A Hamburg police officer has died after he was accidentally shot in a hunting accident, authorities said.
Patrolman Jason Franco, 38, was hunting deer with a family member in Wantage on Tuesday, Dec. 8, when he was struck by a shotgun blast, the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Officer said.
“The investigation appears to suggest this was just a tragic accident,’’ said First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller told NJ Advance Media.
Franco worked for the William Paterson University police department before he was hired by Hamburg in 2018. He was a former Dingmans Ferry, Pa., resident, a graduate of Delaware Valley High School, and a member of the Delaware Township Volunteer Fire Department for many years, and a volunteer firefighter in Montague at the time of his death.
Each of the Sussex County Freeholders offered their condolences for those who knew Franco. At the start of their Dec. 9 meeting, Freeholder Director Sylvia Petillo led the group in a moment of silence.
Petillo said Franco was sworn into the Hamburg Police Department on April 16, 2018. “The passing of Patrolman Jason Franco is a terrible tragedy for his family and our entire county,” she said. “Tonight, our thoughts and our prayers are with his family.”
Freeholder Joshua Hertzberg said, “When I first heard what had happened yesterday evening, I couldn’t help but feel that sense of just a terrible feeling what his family must be going through right now. I just want to extend my thoughts and prayers to them and his colleagues. I know he’ll be greatly missed. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him.”
Freeholder Herbert Yardley said, “not only was he a police officer, but he was a firefighter. He’s a true gentleman that exemplified public service here in the county and he was loved by so many. Our prayers go to him and his family.”
Freeholder Anthony Fasano said, “That is just an incredibly sad situation and my heart goes out to his family and to his friends, during this difficult time.”
’He will be greatly missed’
PBA Local Association 138 posted a statement that said, in part: “Brother Franco, or simply ‘Jay’ to those who were fortunate enough to know him, fulfilled his childhood wish to become a municipal police officer when he was hired by the Hamburg Police Department in 2018 where he has remained until now. A dedicated community servant, prior to that, he worked for the Sussex County Department of Public Works and volunteered as both a firefighter in Dingman’s Ferry, Pa., and Montague Township as well as a Hazardous Materials Technician for the Sussex County HAZMAT Team. At the time of his hiring, Jay was already serving as a police officer with the William Paterson University Police Department. Well-liked and respected by his fellow coworkers in Hamburg as well as the law enforcement community in general, he will be missed by all but undoubtedly by none more than his family.
“Our hearts go out to his mom, Sue, his wife, Michelle, and the rest of Jay’s family. Truly, words cannot express the grief for the loss we all feel. Rest in peace, brother. We will take it from here.”
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to assist with funeral expenses and continuing the family’s health insurance coverage which, without Jay’s continued employment, will expire at the end of the month. The link for that page is https://gf.me/u/zb2ncu.
To send a check or money order by mail, PBA Local 138 will collect funds to deliver to Franco family. Make checks payable to Michelle Franco and mail them to PBA Local 138, PO Box 520, Andover, NJ 07821.
Please see his obituary online or on page 18.
Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to the reporting of this story.
“Not only was he a police officer, but he was a firefighter. He’s a true gentleman that exemplified public service here in the county and he was loved by so many.” Freeholder Herbert Yardley