Two police officers in North Jersey shot and killed a 49-year-old man during a confrontation outside of his apartment complex, according to the New Jersey attorney general’s office.

The shooting occurred on April 12th in Edison. The identity of the victim — Merrill Rambarose, a former software engineer at NYU Langone Health — was released Wednesday by the attorney general’s office, which is investigating the incident.

New Jersey prosecutors investigate all deaths that occur during an encounter with law enforcement.

Based on information released after a preliminary investigation, officers were called to an apartment complex at about 3:45 p.m., where they found Rambarose in the parking lot. He was shot by two officers.

A “short-handled" ax was found near Rambarose, the attorney general’s office said. Officers and emergency medical personnel rendered first aid, but he was pronounced dead within the hour.

“Why did they have to end up killing him?” asked Ken Rambarose, the victim’s older brother.

The officers who shot the victim were identified by the attorney general’s office as Joseph Elqumos and Daniel Bradley. According to NJ.com’s Force Report database, Bradley used force eight times between 2012 and 2016, twice the average for his department.

The Edison Police Department referred questions to the attorney general’s office.

Rambarose said his brother had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had suffered from mental illness since childhood. He said the fatal encounter began when a neighbor called police after his brother confronted her about cigarette smoke that was seeping into his apartment.

“My brother, because of his mental state, he just doesn't talk properly in a civil way,” Ken Rambarose said.

He added that his brother was known to police. He also said that neighbors had told him that one of the witnesses watching the encounter yelled, “don’t shoot!”

It was a tough situation for the police officer, it was tough all around. But you don’t expect them to kill your brother.

Ken Rambarose, older brother of the victim

Ken Rambarose said police should have used a Taser to subdue him. Just a few weeks ago, he said, his brother confronted a cashier at a nearby 7-Eleven with a makeshift weapon, and police were able to handle the situation without lethal force.

Ken Rambarose also said his brother had a high-paying job and was generous with family. But during the pandemic, his mental health dramatically declined.

In June 2020, according to a police report from nearby Woodbridge, Merrill Rambarose became agitated after he was denied service at a store because he wouldn’t wear a mask. He was carrying an ice pick. When police arrived, he yelled, “shoot me,” according to the police report, and officers suspected he was attempting to be killed by police. At one point two officers had their guns drawn, but one was able to wrest the ice pick away before arresting him.

“It was a tough situation for the police officer, it was tough all around,” Ken Rambarose said of the fatal shooting. “But you don’t expect them to kill your brother.”

A review of attorney general press releases indicated that this was the fifth time this year that police officers in New Jersey shot and killed someone. None of the victims were carrying guns at the time.

In January in Keansburg, 55-year-old James Sutton was shot by multiple officers who responded to a call about a robbery in progress at a pharmacy. Sutton was armed with a knife.

That same month in Hillsborough, 19-year-old Joshua Mathis, holding a knife and imitation gun, was shot and killed after calling 911 on himself.

And in Millville in January, an officer shot Daniel Ackley, 33, who was wielding a machete outside of a home.

The next month in Plainsboro, 45-year-old Atiba Lewis was killed by a Middlesex County Sheriff’s officer; a knife was found nearby.

Two out of every three times that police use force in New Jersey, the victim suffers from mental illness or is under the influence, according to the attorney general’s office. To that end, the state announced a pilot program last year in which a mental health professional joins state troopers on some 911 calls involving behavioral health crises.

A similar program in New York City has had early success.