Bible Mistaken for Gun in Shooting

E L I Z A B E T H, N.J., Feb. 26, 2001 -- A man who claimed to be armed with aweapon when he charged at two Elizabeth officers was later found tobe carrying a Bible, authorities said today.

Mark Venuti, 36, was shot at about 9:40 p.m. Saturday whenpolice responded to a Canton Street apartment complex for areported dispute between neighbors.

A neighbor, Peggy Lynch, said the unidentified officers knockedon Venuti's apartment door and identified themselves.

"I heard Mark scream 'I'm armed, don't come in,'" Lynch toldThe Star-Ledger of Newark for today's editions. "And then Iturned around and ran."

Authorities said Venuti then opened the door and charged at theofficers while holding a dark object above his head. One officershot Venuti in the stomach, and Venuti then turned and chargedtoward the other officer, demanding that the officer also shoothim.

Suicide by Cop?

The first officer then fired a second shot, and Venuti fell tothe floor, police said. He was taken to University Hospital inNewark, where he died at about 1:40 a.m. on Sunday.

No weapon was found at the scene, and police later discoveredthat the object Venuti was holding was a Bible.

"The investigation will include the possibility that this was asuicide by cop," said Richard Rodbart, deputy first assistantprosecutor for Union County. The prosecutor's office is required toinvestigate all police shootings.

Venuti's wife, April, said her husband suffered from depressionand recently had tried to hang himself with a telephone cord. Butshe questioned why deadly force was needed.

"When he came out [of the apartment], he had a Bible in hishand and a Bible doesn't look like a gun," April Venuti said.

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