Police acted properly before crash in N.J.
Parkway pursuit followed state rules
Two patrolmen involved in a car chase on the Fourth of July that ended when their cruiser crashed into a tree acted correctly in their pursuit, officials said Wednesday.
The officers, Patrolmen Wilfredo Ramirez and Bruce Lawson, were treated and released from area hospitals, police said. They were in a chase involving three burglary suspects that originated in Paramus, continued onto the Garden State Parkway and ended in Clifton.
"In this case, it was a burglary in progress," Rowan said. "That's one of the crimes where pursuits are permissible."
The chase began in Paramus at the Paramus Park mall Tuesday afternoon after a man tried breaking into a Porsche Cayenne sport utility vehicle in the parking lot about 4:40 p.m., police said.
Paramus Police Chief Fred Corrubia said that as an officer approached, the man got into a two-door silver 2001 BMW 325 with two other men inside and fled at high speed onto the Garden State Parkway for several miles, with Paramus police in pursuit.
The car's license plate number matched that of a vehicle stolen from Jersey City either Monday or early Tuesday morning, Corrubia said. The pursuit never exceeded 70 mph, and traffic was sparse during the chase, he said.
When the BMW and its pursuers entered Clifton, a local police car driven by Ramirez and Lawson joined the chase about 5 p.m. near Exit 153, Rowan said.
But the Clifton police car veered off the road to avoid colliding with another motorist, hit a guardrail, went down an embankment and struck a tree, Rowan said. He did not know the extent of the damage to the police cruiser.
An off-duty police officer from Spring Valley, N.Y., Joe B. Brown, was in his car on the Garden State Parkway when he saw the chase and the accident, Rowan said.
Brown got out and ran to assist state troopers in their effort to extract the two Clifton officers, Rowan said. They were able to get the driver, Lawson, out of the car.
But Ramirez, on the passenger's side, was stuck. With the help of responding firefighters, they extricated him, and he was taken by helicopter to University Hospital in Newark, where he was treated and released, police said.
Lawson was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, where he was examined and released.
Corrubia said that car burglaries were common in his borough.
"It's the shopping mecca of the East Coast," he said. "If you were going to look for any type of car in the world, you would look in Paramus."
The attempted burglary remains under investigation by both Clifton and Paramus police, Rowan said.
The Attorney General's Office says a police officer may pursue when he or she:
Believes that a person has committed a first- or second-degree crime. First- and second-degree crimes can include homicide, rape, burglary and aggravated assault.
Believes the alleged criminal is an immediate threat to public safety.
Even if these requirements are satisfied, a pursuit cannot automatically begin. The officer must also consider:
The likehood that the alleged criminal will be apprehended.
Whether the alleged criminal could be apprehended successfully at a later date.
The risk the pursuit might cause, taking into consideration traffic, weather, roads, population density, officer characteristics, condition of car, familiarity with the road and driving conditions.
The officer must terminate the pursuit if asked to by a supervisor.
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