An FBI agent was killed in a shootout with three bank robbery suspects Thursday in north central New Jersey, a law enforcement official said.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the agent's family had not been told of his death, said the agent was alive when brought to University Hospital in Newark by helicopter, but efforts to save him failed.
Other law enforcement officials, also speaking anonymously because the investigation was ongoing, said agents were investigating a string of recent bank robberies in central New Jersey when they came upon the suspects leaving a bank near Route 22 in Readington. A shootout ensued.
Two suspects were captured and one was being sought in nearby woods, officials said. State and local authorities are searching for the suspects with helicopters and dogs.
State police were coordinating the search for the third suspect, Capt. Al Della Fave said. Close to 100 officers fanned out in the area near a golf course.
Della Fave said state police helicopters and K-9 units were assisting in the search. State Route 22 was closed off, and about two dozen police cars were massed around the area of a PNC Bank while several helicopters circled overhead.
Brian Agans, who works in an engine shop across from the bank, said he heard a "pop, pop, pop." He ran outside to make sure a mechanic wasn't having a problem with equipment, but instead saw law enforcement swarming.
"All hell was breaking loose. I've never seen so many police and authorities take action ever in my life," Agans said.
Police had secured several buildings and barns and were urging residents and business owners to lock their doors and not to approach the suspect.
"He didn't hesitate in shooting an FBI agent," Della Fave said.
Giovanni Finazzo, owner of Mangia Bella, a nearby pizzeria, said other than a string of break-ins several years ago, there is not much crime in the area.
"Are you kidding?" Finazzo asked. "After 7 o'clock, you don't even see a ghost in this town."
Associated Press writers Angela Delli Santi and Tom Hester Jr. in Trenton, and Jeffrey Gold in Newark contributed to this report.