New Jersey Sheriff Richard Berdnik fatally shoots himself in restaurant after officers charged

New Jersey Sheriff Richard Berdnik fatally shoots himself in restaurant after officers charged

Donovan Slack
 | USA TODAY NetworkplayShow CaptionHide Caption#videoDetailsToggle{color:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));cursor:pointer;display:inline-block;font-family:var(–sans-serif,sans-serif);font-size:var(–type-7);font-weight:var( –font-weight-bold,900);line-height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);margin-bottom:-8px}#vdt_hide{margin-bottom:10px}.vdt-flex[hidden]{display:none}.vdt-svg{fill:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);width:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px)}Passaic County Sheriff fatally shot himself: ReportPassaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik reportedly died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Tuesday.Fox – 5 NY

A New Jersey sheriff appears to have taken his own life in a restaurant in Clifton Tuesday, days after federal authorities charged three sheriff’s officers in the beating of a detainee.

Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik, a longtime law enforcement officer with deep ties to North Jersey, fatally shot himself Tuesday afternoon at a well-known Turkish restaurant in Clifton, four people familiar with what happened told the Paterson Press and, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Berdnik went into the bathroom at Toros on Hazel Street and soon after people in the restaurant heard a gunshot, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because family members hadn’t been notified.

Federal authorities on Jan. 17 arrested three Passaic County sheriff’s officers on charges involving an alleged beating of a detainee at the county jail. The next day, Berdnik said he was planning to lay off more than two dozen correctional officers.

On Tuesday, a call went out over Passaic County Sheriff’s radio system for all units to respond to Toros shortly after 3:30 p.m.

More than a dozen police vehicles were within a block, including Paterson police, Passaic sheriff, Clifton fire and Clifton police, all with their lights flashing. Nearby streets have been blocked off. Two helicopters hovered above the scene, flanking the restaurant.

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Authorities at the scene would not comment and referred all questions to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office. The owner of Toros would not speak to reporters.

Berdnik, a retired Clifton police officer, has been the county sheriff since 2011, after winning reelection in November 2022 for what would have been his fifth three-year term. Berdnik was in his mid-60s.

Clifton Councilman Bill Gibson, a retired Clifton police officer, said he was Berdnik’s partner for years. When told of his death, Gibson said, “What? Nooo. He was my partner. We were brothers, for crying out loud. … I got to go.”

Former Clifton Mayor James Anzaldi said he was uncommonly fond of Berdnik despite Anzaldi being a Republican and Berdnik elected five times as a Democrat.

“I can’t imagine,” Anzaldi said. “Richie was the salt of the earth, my kind of person. My heart breaks for his family.” 

Berdnik’s death came after his department went through a difficult week.

The FBI arrested two sergeants and a sheriff’s officer Jan. 17 on charges involving an alleged beating of a pretrial detainee at the Passaic County Jail in January 2021. Berdnik last Thursday issued a memo that he would be laying off 29 sheriff’s officers as a result of the shutdown of that same jail.

“I am well aware that there is much confusion and stress during this very difficult time in our agency,” Berdnik’s memo read. “I have done everything in my power to find employment for all affected employees but unfortunately, we must move forward to lay off 29 correctional police officers at this time.”

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Berdnik was a graduate of Clifton High School, the New Jersey State Police Academy, the FBI National Academy and the FBI National Executive Institute. Berdnik’s wife, Monica Berdnik, is a pediatric nurse at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson and they have four adult children, according to Berdnik’s bio on the Passaic County sheriff’s website. Berdnik was a parishioner and eucharistic minister at Clifton’s St. Andrew’s Church and a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus.

Check back for updates on this developing story…

If you or your child is experiencing a mental health crisis, one of the fastest ways to reach a counselor is through the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988.

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