02/05/2004

N.J. State Trooper Killed in Car Crash

Officer Down: Bertram T. Zimmerman III - [Dennis Township, New Jersey]

By Geoff Mulvihill, The Associated Press

BUENA VISTA, N.J. (AP) -- A state trooper responding to a convenience store robbery was killed Thursday when his patrol car crashed into a utility pole.

The crash happened about 3 a.m. on State Highway 83 near U.S. 9 in Dennis Township.

Trooper Bertram T. Zimmerman III was taking part in an operation to try to catch a suspect in a string of robberies at Wawa convenience stores since last summer, State Police Superintendent Col. Joseph "Rick" Fuentes said.

Just before 3 o'clock, police received a report of a man robbing a Wawa store in Dennis Township. Troopers spotted a Lincoln Town Car speeding away on U.S. 9 and pursued it.

State police said troopers arrested the suspect in Middle Township. The man's identity was not released.

State police said Zimmerman, who had been staking out another convenience store, was responding to the robbery call when his patrol car crashed. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

"This is an extremely painful time for the entire State Police family," Fuentes said. "Trooper Zimmerman lost his life serving the public by doing a job that he loved."

Zimmerman, 32, lived in Gloucester Township. He enlisted in the State Police on March 14, 2001, and served in several southern New Jersey stations, most recently at Buena Vista.

Fuentes said it's an accomplishment for a trooper to be assigned to the elite tactical patrol unit so quickly.

"He was in that assignment because he was a high-energy trooper," Fuentes said.

Zimmerman is survived by his wife, his mother and a sister.

Gov. James McGreevey visited the trooper's family to offer his condolences.

"Throughout his three years as a state trooper, he demonstrated great courage and professionalism to protect our citizens," McGreevey said. "We will keep him and his family in our thoughts and prayers."

State legislators paused for a moment of silence in Zimmerman's memory at the beginning of the Assembly's session Thursday afternoon.

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