11/21/2003

N.J. Motorcycle Officer Killed by Van He Stopped

Officer Down: Police Officer John Samra - [Clifton Police Department, New Jersey]

CLIFTON, N.J. (AP) -- A city police officer died Friday after his motorcycle collided with a van that drove off after he stopped it, authorities said.

The van driver, whose license was revoked for a prior violation, was arrested by Clifton police after being tackled and held down by witnesses when he tried to flee.

Officer John Samra, 41, a 15-year police veteran, was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital in Paterson, Passaic County Prosecutor James F. Avigliano said.

The officer's Harley Davidson motorcycle and a 1995 Plymouth Voyager collided at a Clifton intersection at 10:02 a.m., Avigliano said.

Samra had pulled over the van for a traffic infraction at a nearby intersection, and had headed back to his motorcycle to check the vehicle's paperwork when the driver, Luis Hernandez, 39, of Passaic, drove off.

Avigliano said Samra got back on his motorcycle intending to head off the van. But the driver ran a stop sign and collided with the officer, the prosecutor said.

Hernandez tried to flee on foot but was tackled by two bystanders, including a 17-year-old boy who witnessed the accident.

Avigliano said he did not know why Samra initially stopped Hernandez. The van was registered to Hernandez's girlfriend.

Hernandez was charged with eluding a police officer, causing a death in an accident while on the revoked list and leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Bail had not been set Friday, and Hernandez was being held in the Passaic County Jail, said Avigliano. An initial court appearance could be scheduled Monday. He said no lawyer had come forward to represent Hernandez, who did not have a published phone number.

Samra was an Air Force veteran who had been on motorcycle patrol with the Clifton police for the past five years.
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