An off-duty Newark police detective celebrating a friend's birthday at a strip club in Paterson was killed early Monday morning after an armed robbery went awry outside the gentleman's bar, authorities said.
Michael Morgan, 32, was shot around 3 a.m. near the Sunrise Lounge on Straight Street after he tried to ward off a man who brandished a handgun and demanded cash, according to John Latoracca, the chief assistant prosecutor with the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office.
The officer was transported to St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, where he died.
Latoracca said Morgan, who lived in both Newark and Belleville, was talking with a woman outside the club when the two were approached by the armed robber — a tall, slim black man in his 20s.
It's unclear what happened next because Latoracca declined to detail specifics. "The officer was shot once in the torso," he said.
The prosecutor said Morgan was armed at the time of the incident, but did not fire his weapon.
The woman, whose name, age and relation to Morgan were not released, was unharmed, according to Latoracca.
As of Monday night, no suspects had been identified or arrested. Latoracca said the same man who shot Morgan robbed a group of women roughly 15 minutes before, a block away from the club.
The New Jersey Patrolmen's Benevolent Association is offering a $10,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest. The Essex County Sheriff's Office Crimsestoppers also is offering $10,000 and Newark Crime Stoppers is offering $5,000.
Outside Morgan's family home in Belleville Monday afternoon, police from Belleville and Newark prevented reporters from asking questions to mourners and family members at the white, single-family home by closing off the one-way street with barriers. Officers standing guard told reporters the family would not be speaking to the press.
Meanwhile, in Newark, Mayor Cory Booker and Police Director Samuel DeMaio, released a joint statement about the officer's murder.
"Our condolences go out to the family of Detective Michael Morgan. Detective Morgan was a proud and courageous servant of our city," Booker said. "His loss is tragic and the circumstances of his death make it all the more painful. Our prayers are with his family and all who knew and loved this great man."
DeMaio said Morgan was a 6½-year veteran of the force who worked in the special investigations unit at the time of his death. The detective previously served in the department's narcotics and gang unit before he was promoted last Friday to his new assignment.
Derrick Hatcher, president of Newark's Fraternal Order of Police, said by phone, "Mike was a helluva good cop. He had lots of friends in the police department."
A Facebook memorial group created Monday afternoon for Morgan garnered more than 100 members and had at least two dozen written remembrances by nightfall. Janis Borroto, of Rutherford, wrote, "I always had the biggest high school crush on Mike Morgan! :) He was an awesome guy, always joking around and the life of the party."
On the Newark Police Department's website Monday night, a black banner with a blue stripe through the middle covered the site's departmental nameplate to honor the fallen officer. Morgan's full name and title, as well as Monday's date, were displayed on the banner in white font.
Morgan is the second Newark police officer to be killed this year.
In May, while apparently ordering pizza at a restaurant in Newark. Johnson, who authorities said was not the target, later died at University Hospital in the city.