Category: Ocean County

Grand Opening Of Tru Birth Center In Lakewood

October 18, 2021

LAKEWOOD, NJ (OCEAN)–The Grand Opening of the Tru Birth Center in Lakewood was held yesterday October 17 and the Guest of Honor was Tammy Murphy. The TRŪ Birth Center provides optimized birth outcomes in a setting of amenities and empowerment. The center is located at 1382 Lanes Mill Road, Lakewood, NJ 08701

Tammy Murphy said, “With innovative care centers and committed partners like this, we’re well on our way to becoming the safest and most equitable place in the nation to deliver and raise a baby.”




Toms River Police Respond To Barricaded Person

October 13, 2021

TOMS RIVER, NJ (OCEAN)–On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, at approximately 4:05 PM, police were dispatched to Patmas Drive for a reported emotionally disturbed male acting erratically in the residence with a bat and knives. Upon police arrival, family members were evacuated from the home and officers formed a perimeter around the property for the safety of the neighborhood, officers, and the male party.

The male opened the front door holding a bat and large knife, and after failing to obey officer’s commands, he closed the front door refusing to come out. Toms River Police Emergency Services Unit, and Detective negotiators responded to the scene and opened a dialog via phone. After telephone negotiations ended, a tactical team entered the home, quickly locating the male party, and he was taken into protective custody. He was transported to Community Medical Center for further treatment. There are no reported injuries during the incident.

Also assisting on scene were members of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. These types of calls are unpredictable and extremely dangerous. We’d like to commend all of the first responders on scene for their professionalism and commitment to the safety of everyone involved.


Police Report Bomb Threat Cleared At Toms River High School South

October 12, 2021

TOMS RIVER, NJ (OCEAN)–On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, at approximately 6:45 AM Toms River Police were notified of an anonymous tip regarding a possible bomb at Toms River High School South. School administration was immediately notified and evacuated the building as a precautionary measure. Toms River Police and Ocean County Sheriff K9 bomb officers conducted a thorough search of the area and the school with negative results. Once cleared, students and staff returned to the building.

The tip came through an anonymous tipline with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. It was stated in the tip that the person was unsure if what they overheard was a joke or an actual threat and wanted to alert authorities just in case. We commend them for alerting authorities. See something, say something, it’s always better to be safe!




Pedestrian Struck In Lakewood Transported To Trauma Center

October 10, 2021

LAKEWOOD, NJ (OCEAN)–Around 8:40 p.m. a pedestrian was struck at the intersection of Route 9 and 9th Street. The person was transported to Jersey Shore Medical Center. The roadway was closed for the accident investigation. Lakewood Police are investigating. No further details are available.


.22 Caliber Handgun And Ammunition Recovered At Jackson Liberty High School Football Game; Teen Charged With Possession Of Firearm On School Property

October 9, 2021

JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ (OCEAN)–On Friday October 8, 2021, Jackson Police Officers who were assigned to the football game at Jackson Liberty High School received information that a teenaged male at the game was reportedly in possession of a firearm.

The officers and school security located the male and took him into custody without incident. A search of the male’s backpack led to the discovery of a .22 caliber handgun and ammunition. The male was transported to police headquarters for further investigation while other officers stayed on scene at the football game until the game was over and spectators cleared the event.

Detectives assisted with the continuing investigation which resulted in the teenaged male being charged with the unlawful possession of a handgun and possession of a firearm on school property. He was later transported and lodged in Ocean County Juvenile Intake.

The investigation did not reveal any specific threats made against any persons and as the investigation has continued into today, there have been no threats or additional safety concerns identified in relation to this incident.

– The media and the public are reminded that any persons arrested or charged with any offenses or crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.


Commercial Fishing Vessel Runs Aground On Island Beach State Park Near A-23

October 9, 2021 — Updated

BERKELEY TOWNSHIP, NJ (OCEAN)–A 10:00 p.m. a witness noticed a fishing vessel run aground on Island Beach State Park in Area 23. The witness and 9-1-1 caller stated that it appeared the the vessel lost power and drifted onto shore. According to other sources there were three aboard and no injuries reported.


Last night, watchstanders at the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay command center received notification via channel 16 from a 68-foot fishing vessel stating that the vessel had three people aboard and ran aground on the beach off #BarnegatLight. A 47-foot Motor Lifeboat boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light arrived on scene and confirmed that the mariners were not in immediate distress.The Sector Delaware Bay command center maintained communication with the vessel throughout the night.The boatcrew from Station Barnegat Light, Towboat US, and Shamrock Marine Towing and Salvage are currently on scene assisting the vessel.


As of right now, we know that a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat from Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light is on scene with the vessel. Towboat US and another local towing and salvage company are also currently assisting the vessel.  — USCG District 5 Public Affairs





The vessel is marked “Bear” and home port appears to be Barnegat Light, NJ according to the Boat Database and USCG Maritime Information Exchange, Port State Information Exchange. https://cgmix.uscg.mil/psix/psixsearch.aspx

Vessel Information:Vessel Particulars:
Vessel Name: BEAR
Primary Vessel Number: 674417 (Official Number (U.S.))
Hull Identification Number: N/A
Manufacturer Hull Number: N/A
IMO Number: N/A
Vessel Flag: UNITED STATES
Vessel Call Sign: WDD6926
Service: Commercial Fishing Vessel
Length: 68.00 ft
Breadth: 19.00 ft
Depth: 8.00 ft
Build Year: 1984
Alternate VINs:CG246444 (Coast Guard Number)
Service Information:Tonnage Information:
Service Status: Active
Out Of Service Date: N/A
Last Removed From Service By: N/A
Cargo Authority: N/A
Tonnage:72 – Simplified, Gross Ton57 – Simplified, Net Ton
Vessel Documents and Certifications
DocumentAgencyDate IssuedExpiration DateCERTIFICATE OF DOCUMENTATIONUSCGJanuary 15,2021February 28,2022Fishing Vessel DecalN/AMarch 10,2020March 10,2022




Brick Township Man Indicted For Murder Of Father

October 8, 2021

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on October 7, 2021, a superseding Indictment was returned against Mark J. Austin, 30, of Brick Township, charging him with Murder in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1), Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d, and Unlawful Possession of a Weapon in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d, relative to the death of his father, Mark Richard Austin, in Brick Township on September 7, 2019. The superseding Indictment charges that Austin procured the commission of the murder of his father by payment or promise of payment of anything of monetary value, an aggravating factor which – if proven beyond a reasonable doubt at the time of trial – requires that Austin be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole eligibility. Austin and his co-defendant, Jeray Melton, 30, of Salem City, were originally indicted in connection with the murder of the victim on December 3, 2019; it was not known at that time that this was a murder for hire situation.

On Saturday, September 7, 2019, Officers of the Brick Township Police were summoned to a residence on Acorn Drive and discovered the victim’s body. At that time, it was discovered that the victim had been beaten to death. Following a thorough and extensive investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Major Crime Unit, Brick Township Police Department Detective Bureau, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, it was determined that Austin and Melton had conspired to kill the victim. Mark J. Austin and Jeray Melton were charged accordingly and taken into custody on September 13, 2019, and have been incarcerated since that date.

Subsequent investigation determined that Austin agreed to pay Melton a sum of money in exchange for killing Mark Richard Austin. On February 25, 2020, Melton pled guilty to Aggravated Manslaughter in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a before the Honorable Guy P. Ryan, J.S.C. Melton is currently lodged in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution pending sentencing. Austin remains in in the Ocean County Jail awaiting trial.

Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Chief Trial Attorney Michael Weatherstone and Assistant Prosecutor Kimberly Carr who are handling the case on behalf of the State, as well as the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crime Unit, Brick Township Police Department Detective Bureau, Brick Township Police Department, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, Salem County Prosecutor’s Office, Salem City Police Department, New Jersey State Police Major Crime Unit, New Jersey State Police TEAMS Unit, New Jersey Department of Corrections, Port Authority Police of New York and New Jersey, Manchester Township Police Department, Millville Police Department, Bayonne Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their collective and cooperative efforts in connection with this investigation.

The charges referenced above are merely accusations and the press and public are reminded that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
R.P.C. 3.6(b)(6).


Motor Vehicle Pursuit Arrests In Jackson Township

October 5, 2021

JACKSON, NJ (OCEAN)–On Monday October 4, 2021 at 8:44 p.m., Police Officers Christopher Brown and Michael DeBlasi were on patrol on Monmouth Road (Rt. 537) when they observed two vehicles parked at the entrance ramp to go into Six Flags Great Adventure. The park was not open and the gates to the entrance were closed preventing the cars from entering the ramp and they were observed parked but facing toward oncoming traffic.

As the officers turned around to check on the vehicles, they observed them pull away from the entrance and drive against the flow of traffic, going east in the westbound lanes of Monmouth Road to do a u-turn to turn around to head west. As Officer Brown pulled in behind the vehicles he observed that the first car that was directly in front of him was traveling approximately 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit in what appeared to be an attempt to block him as the second vehicle began pulling away at a high rate of speed. He was able to get around the first vehicle and as he began closing the gap on the second, he observed it appeared to increase its speed and pass other vehicles on the roadway. He activated the patrol unit’s emergency lights and as he reached speeds nearing 90 miles per hour, the vehicle continued to pull away from him. As he approached the intersection of Hawkin Road, he observed that the vehicle had crashed into a pole as it had attempted to make a left turn from Monmouth Road onto Hawkin Road. At this time he observed subjects standing outside of the vehicle, one of which began running into a wooded area at the corner.

The officer began to pursue the subject into the woods while calling him to stop running which after encountering dense brush he complied and began walking back to the officer. As this male subject exited the woods and got close to the officer, he lunged at the officer’s holstered firearm which resulted in a brief struggle until he was handcuffed and placed under arrest.

Officer DeBlasi along with Officers Robert Reiff, James Reynolds and Sgt. Michael Kelly had arrived on scene to assist and two other occupants of the vehicle were taken into custody at the scene.

As the incident was ongoing, the other vehicle which had been at the park entrance with the suspect vehicle and which appeared to attempt to block the officer arrived on scene briefly and the occupants were advised that they would need to be interviewed about the incident. Before they could be identified, this vehicle left the scene. Efforts are ongoing to attempt to identify this vehicle further.

Officers from the Plumsted Police Department arrived on scene to investigate the single vehicle motor vehicle crash and the involved 2014 Mercedes was impounded.

The three occupants of the vehicle were identified as residents of Philadelphia, PA. The investigation resulted in the 17 year old male driver being charged with eluding and multiple motor vehicle summonses including speeding, careless driving, reckless driving and being an unlicensed driver. He was transported and lodged in the Ocean County Juvenile Detention Center. The 16 year old male who had run from the scene was charged with resisting arrest and attempting to disarm a law enforcement officer. He was also transported and lodged in the Ocean County Juvenile Detention Center. An 18 year old male passenger was charged with eluding and released on summons pending a court appearance. A summons was also being issued to the owner of the Mercedes for allowing an unlicensed driver to operate the vehicle.

– The media and the public are reminded that any persons arrested or charged with any offenses or crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.


Daughter, 55, Stabs And Kills Father, 87 And His Girlfriend, 75 In Surf City, NJ

October 5, 2021

SURF CITY, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and Surf City Police Chief John N. Casella, Jr., announced that Sherry Lee Heffernan, 55, of Landenberg, Pennsylvania, has been charged with two counts of Murder in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) relative to the deaths of John Enders and Francoise Pitoy in Surf City on or about September 29, 2021.  Heffernan was also charged with Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d, and Unlawful Possession of Weapon in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d

On October 3, 2021, at approximately 4:00 p.m., Officers from the Surf City Police Department responded to a residence on North 7th Street to conduct a welfare check upon the residents.  When they arrived, Officers located the bodies of John Enders, 87, of Surf City, and Francoise Pitoy, 75, of Manchester; it was readily apparent they were deceased, having suffered multiple obvious stab wounds.  On October 4, 2021, the Ocean County Medical Examiner performed a post-mortem examination of Mr. Enders and determined the cause of his death to be multiple stab wounds with severance of the right carotid artery and blunt force trauma; the manner of death was ruled to be a homicide. A post-mortem examination of Ms. Pitoy is scheduled for today.

A subsequent investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Surf City Police Department, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit revealed that the victims were involved in a dating relationship, and that Mr. Enders was the primary owner the residence.  Ms. Pitoy stayed with him at the residence regularly.  “The cooperative investigation ultimately determined that Heffernan, Mr. Enders’ daughter, was responsible for the deaths of both Mr. Enders and Ms. Pitoy,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.

On October 4, 2021, Heffernan was taken into custody by the Pennsylvania State Police at her residence in Landenberg.  Upon her anticipated return to New Jersey, she will be lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing.

“This truly was a team effort in terms of the depth and comprehensiveness of this investigation.  These detectives combed through the evidence to ultimately determine that Heffernan did, in fact, cause the deaths of Mr. Enders and Ms. Pitoy,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.  “We were able to determine very early on in the investigation that there was no immediate danger to the public.  From there, these detectives went to work doing their absolute best to solve these horrific crimes.  Every law enforcement officer involved this investigation has my profound gratitude,” Prosecutor Billhimer concluded.

Prosecutor Billhimer and Chief Cassella commend the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crime Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Intelligence Squad, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, Surf City Police Department, Long Beach Township Police Department, Stafford Township Police Department, New Jersey State Police, Pennsylvania State Police, Maryland State Police, Collegeville (Pennsylvania) Police Department, North East (Maryland) Police Department, and Ocean County Motor Vehicle Services, for their collective and cooperative assistance in connection with this investigation leading to Heffernan’s apprehension.

The charges referenced above are merely accusations and the press and public are reminded that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 

R.P.C. 3.6(b)(6).

Previous MidJersey.News stories on this incident:



Accident With Reported Injuries In Front Of Glory’s In Jackson Township

October 4, 2021

JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ (OCEAN)–Just before 9:00 p.m. Jackson Police and Jackson First Aid Squad were dispatched to CR526 E. Commodore Boulevard and CR 527 Cedar Swamp Road in front of Glory’s for an accident. It was unclear how many were injured and/or transported but appeared to be a two vehicle accident. Jackson Township Police is investigating the crash. No further information is available.

Two Dead In Surf City “Targeted Attack” Identified As Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit And Others Continue To Investigate

October 4, 2021

SURF CITY, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and Surf City Police Chief John N. Casella, Jr., announced that the two deceased individuals discovered at a residence in Surf City on October 3, 2021, have been positively identified as John Enders, 87, of Surf City, and Francoise Pitoy, 75, of Manchester.

“This is an active and ongoing investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Surf City Police Department, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit.  As we stated earlier, both deaths are suspicious in nature but there is no danger to the public at this time.  Our investigation indicates this was a targeted attack against both decedents,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated. “We will be able to release more information once post-mortem examinations have been completed,” Prosecutor Billhimer concluded.

Anyone in possession of information concerning this investigation is urged to contact Detective Lindsay Woodfield of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-929-2027, extension 3989, or Sgt. Victor Rice of the Surf City Police Department at 609-494-8121.


Suspicious Deaths In Surf City Being Investigated

October 4, 2021

SURF CITY, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and Surf City Police Chief John N. Casella, Jr., announced that on October 3, 2021, Officers of the Surf City Police Department discovered  two deceased individuals at a residence on North 7th Avenue.

The deaths are currently being investigated by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Surf City Police Department, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit.  “At this point in time, these deaths are considered to be suspicious. More information will be released as it becomes available,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.

This is an active and ongoing investigation. Anyone in possession of information concerning this investigation is urged to contact Detective Lindsay Woodfield of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-929-2027, extension 3989, or Sgt. Victor Rice of the Surf City Police Department at 609-494-8121.


Little Egg Harbor Man Pleads Guilty To Aggravated Manslaughter

October 1, 2021

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on September 30, 2021, Kendrick Coley, 29, of Little Egg Harbor, pled guilty to Aggravated Manslaughter in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a(1), before the Honorable Guy P. Ryan, J.S.C., relative to the stabbing death of Richard Pone during the evening hours of May 16, 2018 in Little Egg Harbor.  At the time of his sentencing on December 3, 2021, the State will recommend a term of 20 years New Jersey State Prison, subject to the terms of the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2

On May 16, 2018, at approximately 8:15 p.m., Officers from the Little Egg Harbor Police Department responded to a 911 call in reference to a stabbing incident that had taken place at a residence on Maplewood Drive.  Upon their arrival, Officers located Mr. Pone in an upstairs bedroom with multiple stab wounds; he was pronounced deceased at the scene at approximately 8:40 p.m.  A subsequent investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit and Little Egg Harbor Police Department Detective Bureau determined that Coley had stabbed the victim multiple times after the two had engaged in a physical altercation at the residence.  Coley was apprehended at the scene and taken into custody without incident.  He has been lodged in the Ocean County Jail since the date of his arrest on May 16, 2018.

Prosecutor Billhimer commends the diligent efforts of Chief Trial Attorney Michael Weatherstone and Assistant Prosecutor Kimberly Carr who handled the case on behalf of the State, as well as the Ocean County Prosecutor’s  Office Major Crime Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, Little Egg Harbor Police Department Detective Bureau, Little Egg Harbor Police Department, Tuckerton Borough Police Department, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, for their collaborative efforts in connection with this investigation, resulting in Coley’s apprehension, guilty plea, and soon his state prison sentence.


Legislation supported by Smith to forgive more than $8.1 million for Jersey Shore towns in Fourth District passes House, signed into law

September 30, 2021

WASHINGTON – Legislation supported by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) to provide more than $8.1 million in Community Disaster Loan (CDL) forgiveness for Jersey Shore towns in the Fourth Congressional District impacted by Superstorm Sandy passed the House of Representatives and was signed into law today as part of a stopgap measure to avoid a government shutdown.

            “This long-awaited Community Disaster Loan forgiveness is greatly welcomed and much-needed relief for our local towns and communities that were devastated by Superstorm Sandy,” said Rep. Smith, who voted for the measure on the House Floor. “Nearly nine years after Sandy, our towns have finally received the reprieve they both need and deserve—and were originally assured—from these difficult payments.” 

            Mayors from Point Pleasant Beach and Manasquan, two of the towns in Smith’s district slated to receive CDL forgiveness, thanked Smith for his tireless efforts to secure the significant relief that will free up funds for critical municipal projects and other needed local improvements.

            “Point Pleasant Beach is so grateful to have an attentive and hardworking member like Congressman Chris Smith representing us,” said Mayor Paul Kanitra. “He listened to our needs regarding CDL forgiveness, and he and his staff put in countless hours to make this a reality. We expect the effects of this to save the Borough close to $1 million dollars.

            “This is a big deal,” said Manasquan Mayor Ed Donovan. “This represents hundreds of thousands of dollars that we would’ve had to repay, that we can now use for other needed projects and improvements in Manasquan. There is no lack of projects we need funding.”

            In addition to securing relief for New Jersey towns, the legislation will also provide assistance to other eligible towns across the country with outstanding Community Disaster Loans.

            Administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the CDL program provides operational funding for local governments to continue basic operations after substantial revenue loss caused by a major disaster, such as Superstorm Sandy, that adversely affects their ability to provide essential municipal services.


Ewing Township Man Pleads Guilty To Eluding, Terroristic Threats, Aggravated Assault and DWI

September 29, 2021

JACKSON, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on September 29, 2021, Michael Mahan, 38, of Ewing Township, pled guilty to Eluding in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b, Terroristic Threats in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3b, Aggravated Assault in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(2), and Driving While Intoxicated in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, before the Honorable Michael T. Collins, J.S.C., in connection with a series of events that transpired in Jackson Township on May 8, 2021.  At the time of his sentencing on November 19, 2021, the State will recommend a term of eight years New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) as to the Eluding charge, and five years NJSP as to the Terroristic Threats and Aggravated Assault charges.  The sentences are to run concurrently.

On May 8, 2021, Jackson Township Police Officers responded to a 911 call for a report of a stabbing incident on Maria Street.  Responding Officers discovered a female with a large slash across her face.  An investigation conducted by the Jackson Township Police revealed that the female victim had been followed to her residence by Mahan.  Mahan held a knife to the victim’s neck, threatened to kill her, and then punched her in the face while holding the knife, thereby causing a laceration to her face.  As a neighbor intervened and called 911, Mahan fled the area.  Mahan’s vehicle was observed by Officers traveling on Toms River Road.  A pursuit was initiated, and Mahan fled at a high rate of speed.  As Mahan was attempting to navigate a turn onto West Veterans Highway, he struck another vehicle.  As he continued travelling at a high rate of speed on West Veterans Highway, Mahan’s vehicle collided with yet another vehicle – forcing it off the road.  Mahan’s vehicle traveled approximately 500 more feet before it became disabled; he was subsequently taken into custody without incident. 

Mahan was initially transported to Monmouth Medical Center, Southern Campus in Lakewood for the purpose of securing a blood sample to determine whether he was operating the motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs; laboratory results from the blood draw later confirmed that Mahan’s blood alcohol level was .14 – nearly twice the legal limit under New Jersey law.  Mahan was transported to the Ocean County Jail, where he has been lodged since May 8, 2021.

The female victim was transported to an area hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.  The occupants of the two vehicles struck by Mahan were treated at the scene for minor injuries. Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Assistant Prosecutor Victoria Veni who handled the case on behalf of the State, as well as Jackson Township Police Department, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, for their collaborative efforts in connection with this investigation leading to Mahan’s apprehension, guilty plea, and soon his state prison sentence.


Manchester Man Arrested For Failure To Register As a Megan’s Law Offender

September 29, 2021

MANCHESTER, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on September 28, 2021, Ralph Downey, Jr., 21, of Manchester, was arrested and charged with Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2a(3).  Downey was taken into custody without incident by officers of the Manchester Township Police Department and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Megan’s Law Unit.  “Since 1994, Megan’s Law requires certain sex offenders to register with their local police departments whenever they move and/or change their residential address or place of employment.  Failure to comply with this obligation is a third degree crime,” noted Prosecutor Billhimer.  In this instance, Downey failed to meet his annual registration requirement with any law enforcement agencies.  Downey is currently lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing.

Anyone with relevant information regarding this case – or others violating Megan’s Law requirements – should contact Sergeant John Argento of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 929-2027, extension 2903.  The information may be provided anonymously.  For further information, please visit the State Police Sex Offender Internet Registry at:

http://www.njsp.org/sex-offender-registry/index.shtml

The charges referenced above are merely accusations and the press and public are reminded that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.  R.P.C. 3.6(b)(6).


3 Alarm Fire Destroys Home on Bay Way In Brick Township

September 27, 2021

BRICK TOWNSHIP, NJ (OCEAN)–On Monday afternoon, at 3:30 p.m., Emergency Responders answered a call of a house fire at 31 Bay Way in the Bay Harbor section of Brick. Upon arrival a heavy smoke and fire condition was observed. Strong winds helped to spread the fire quickly. The resident of 31 Bay Way, who was home at the time, was uninjured, but the home was completely destroyed.

The wind driven fire caused extensive damage to the upper portion of the house next door at 29 Bay Way. In addition spot fires on at least one area property were extinguished. The only injury was that of one of the fire fighters who suffered a minor burn that was treated by EMS on the scene.

The fire quickly reached a third alarm bringing Brick Township fire companies, Pioneer Hose, Breton Woods, Laurelton, and Herbertsville. In addition, the Point Pleasant Boro, Point Pleasant Beach, Silverton and East Dover fire companies also responded, along with the Police and the Brick Police EMS. Jackson and Lakewood covered the township’s fire houses while Brick Township’s fire and mutual aid companies worked to extinguish the fire.

The fire is being investigated by Detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, the Brick Police Detective Bureau and the Brick Fire Safety Bureau.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Brick Fire Safety Bureau Chief Kevin Batzel at 732-458-4100. No further information is being released at this time.



Memory of New Egypt Resident Honored During NJ Sharing Network’s 5K Celebration of Life

September 27, 2021

On September 12, thousands of walkers, runners and volunteers participated in NJ Sharing Network’s 5K Celebration of Life Walk and USATF Certified Race at the organization’s headquarters in New Providence, NJ. The event, which was presented by Hackensack Meridian Health and Pfizer and supported by dozens of other generous sponsors, honored those who gave the gift of organ and tissue, paid tribute to those who have received a transplant, offered hope to those currently waiting for a transplant and remembered the lives lost while waiting for the gift of life.

Family members and friends of the late Cynthia (Cindy) Von Schmidt, 55, of New Egypt, NJ, gathered together to form the “Cindy’s Amazing Grace” 5K team to honor her memory and show their support for NJ Sharing Network’s life-saving mission. Cindy, who passed away in 2016, was an organ and tissue donor who saved four lives and enhanced the lives of many others. Members of “Cindy’s Amazing Grace” offered the following message during the 5K Celebration of Life:

Cindy passed away in February 2016 of a brain aneurysm. She was 55 years young, married for 35 years and a mother of two. Besides her family she had three passions. Cindy was an avid skier, a beach lover and atop it all, a baker – a true connoisseur.

Cindy would spend months baking Christmas cookies for family and friends. Along with her daughter’s help, they would decorate and ship them all over the world! From the mountains of California to our military bases in around the globe – her cookies have been there.

Cindy was the most generous woman, always offering her hand to those who needed it. From organizing donations and fundraisers for those who needed help to rescuing dogs, Cindy made many efforts to help those she could. The day she left us, she gave the ultimate gift of four life-saving donations and multiple tissue donations to help others!

About NJ Sharing Network

Dedicated to saving lives through organ and tissue donation, NJ Sharing Network is the non-profit organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue for the nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents waiting for a life-saving transplant. With headquarters in New Providence, NJ, the organization, selected by NJBIZ as one of the state’s “Best Places to Work” for the fourth consecutive year, is also part of the national recovery system, serving the 110,000 people on the national waiting list. To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.




Two Rescued From Sailboat That Ran Aground In South Seaside Park

September 25, 2021

BERKELEY TOWNSHIP, SEASIDE PARK, NJ (OCEAN)–Around 6:45 p.m., Seaside Park along with Seaside Heights were dispatched to 14th Avenue Beach for a boater in distress, the vessel was located in South Seaside Park-Berkley Township off 5th Lane Midway Beach. First reports from PD were that the boat was 100 yards offshore doing circles with the 3-4 swell it was slowly pushed in. Seaside Park & Seaside Heights deployed their rescues swimmers into the ocean as there were two victims onboard the vessel. Batting the surf the water rescue team was quickly able to get them off the vessel and to safely. Two victims were removed and checked by Toms River EMS. It is unknown what caused the power failure at this time.

Just after 11:00 p.m. the Seaside Park Fire Department was dispatched back to the beach for a “boat fire” No boat fire was found but it was reported that the sailboat was out of the water and on the beach.

Photos, video and story by: Ryan Mack, Jersey Shore Fire Response





Point Pleasant Beach Community Rallies in Face of Regional Blood Shortage, More than 100 Blood Products Collected to Support Local Youth’s Bone Marrow Transplant 

September 22, 2021

POINT PLEASANT BEACH, NJ (OCEAN)–Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) hosted a community blood drive on Thursday, Sept. 2 at the Ocean Fire Company # 1 on Arnold Avenue to benefit Giovanni Taurozzi, a local youth who is undergoing a bone marrow transplant from a donor that is not related to him.  The young man’s Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia treatment requires daily blood and platelet transfusions. 

“Most people are aware of the need for blood reserves to support emergency care, such as trauma, as well as for surgeries.  However, patients receiving treatment for cancer of all types, but especially blood cancers, use more blood products than any of these other categories,” said Sally Wells, Business Development Liaison at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

“Throughout the COVID 19 pandemic maintaining an adequate supply of blood and platelets for our patients has been a tremendous challenge,” said Wells.  “Having such a successful blood drive only a few short hours after Hurricane Ida was quite an accomplishment. I have learned that when the public understands the need, they respond, and they respond in force, as was the case with this drive.   Everyone worked together to make sure there would be blood and platelets available over the long Labor Day holiday weekend.”

The blood drive was organized by a friend of the Taurozzi family, Jennifer Dearborn, and a dynamic group of dedicated volunteers.  The event collected more than 100 blood products thanks to the selfless work of these volunteer and the donors they inspired to participate. 

“My family and I extend our heartfelt thanks to all in response to the recent successful blood drive, said Giovanni Taurozzi. “Our community comes together in a big way wherever there is a need and blood product supplies for emergency and daily needs are low.”

“Special thanks to Jennifer Dearborn, for spearheading the drive, Mike Brodeur and Fire Co #1 providing the space, countless businesses – local and county wide, who provided food and treats, hung a flyer or posted about the event, our volunteers and RWJUH Blood Service team who kept it running smoothly, added Taruozzi. “Lastly and most importantly, thank you to the donors who not only came from Point Pleasant Beach, but surrounding towns, as well as some from a great distance. Without them all of this would not have been possible.”

Local business that supported the effort included Joe Leones Italian specialties, Lenny’s Colonial Market and Sweet Revenge Chocolates, who generously donated of food and treats for the donors.  Borden’s Stationery and Office Supplies and Blazing Visuals helped with marketing, and the Point Beach Fire Company and Police Department provided outstanding support. 


Six Rescued From Serious Boat Accident On LBI, One Critical Condition, 5 Others Stable Condition

September 19, 2021 — 10:55 a.m. update see USCG press release below. Also see updated information from the New Jersey State Police below the USCG press release.

BEACH HAVEN, N.J. – The Coast Guard, and the Beach Haven Volunteer Fire Department rescued six boaters after their 30-foot white pleasure craft struck a fixed aid to navigation in the vicinity of Ham Island, Sunday. 

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay Command Center received a call from a good Samaritan at 12:18 a.m., stating he overheard a large crash and several calls for help in the vicinity of Ham Island.

A 29-foot Response Boat-Small boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Beach Haven was launched to the scene at approximately 12:20 a.m., along with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew from Coast Guard Atlantic City, and a jet ski crew from Beach Haven Volunteer Fire Department. Beach Haven Police Department shore crews were also launched.

Once on scene at approximately 12:32 a.m, the Station Beach Haven boatcrew, and the Beach Haven Volunteer Fire Department jet ski crews were able to successfully rescue all six boaters from the water. They had all sustained several injuries from the crash.

The boaters were safely taken back to shore where local emergency medical services personnel transported them to various local hospitals. 

Sector Delaware Bay issued a safety marine information broadcast to mariners to be aware of potential debris in the area from the crash.

Coast Guard crews will be actively working to fix the aid to navigation. 


Updated information from the New Jersey State Police:

LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP, NJ (OCEAN)–The crash occurred last evening at approximately 11:58 p.m. in the Little Egg Harbor in Long Beach Township, Ocean County.  Preliminary information indicates that a 25-foot Bertram Vessel struck Intercoastal Waterway marker 92.  The vessel sustained disabling damage and all six occupants were ejected into the harbor.  Two occupants were airlifted to Atlanticare Regional Medical Center and the remaining four occupants were transported by ambulance to Southern Ocean Medical Center.  One occupant is in critical but stable condition, and the other five occupants are in stable condition.  The crash remains under investigation.



Early morning Breaking News report here:

LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP, NJ (OCEAN)–MidJersey.News is following reports of a serious boat crash that happened around 12:30 a.m. off of Hideaway Drive in Long Beach Township. Numerous fire and EMS departments were sent to the scene.

Two medical helicopters were called to the scene along with the U.S. Coast Guard. Initial reports are that one boat was involved and unconfirmed reports of six patients, and two were missing. A Ocean County Fire Coordinator was called and a command post was set up at the Beach Haven Park Yacht Club. Around 1:23 a.m. all persons were accounted for. The NJ State Police accident investigation team was notified.

Medivac from Hackensack Meridian Health AirMed landed at 1:38 a.m. at landing zone in Ship Bottom/Surf City at the park behind Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School




Dangerous Rip Currents At Jersey Shore Multiple Rescues In Toms River Area; One In Critical Condition Others Hospitalized

September 18, 2021

TOMS RIVER, NJ (OCEAN)–On Saturday, September 18, 2021, at approximately 11:20 a.m., police and EMS were dispatched to 2nd Ave and Ocean Terrace in Normandy Beach for a swimmer in distress. Witnesses reported that a male was caught in a rip current and struggling to keep his head above water. Joseph Gates of Hopatcong, entered the water with his surfboard and was able to keep the victim above water. Two additional surfers, Thomas Galbraith of Warren, and Colin Cronin of Lavalette, also entered the water with their surfboards and were able to assist Mr. Gates and the victim back to shore. There were no injuries and none of the involved parties required medical assistance.

At approximately 12:30 PM police and EMS were dispatched to 8th Avenue and Ocean Ave in Ortley Beach for multiple swimmers in distress. A 22 year old female from New Fairfield, CT was the first swimmer to be pulled out of the ocean by friends and was treated by EMS and transported to Community Medical Center by a Toms River Ambulance. At this time she is stable and expected to make a full recovery.

A 29 year old male from Freehold was the next victim to be pulled out of the ocean, also by friends. He was conscious and treated by EMS as he was transported to Community Medical Center with medics on board. He is listed in stable condition.

The third victim, a 27 year old female from Brookfield, CT, had been going under water multiple times and appeared to not be moving. A rescue wave runner from Seaside Heights Fire Department was able to rescue her and bring her to shore. The firefighters onboard the wave runner performed CPR as they brought her to the beach. Once on the beach, EMS and medics continued CPR and were able to regain a pulse prior to her being transported to Community Medical Center. At this time she is listed in critical condition.

Police officers cleared the township’s ocean waters of all swimmers due to the dangerous water conditions.

See United States Lifesaving Association about Rip Currents and NOAA and USLA Rip Current Safety Toolkit



Rip Current Statement

Coastal Hazard Message
National Weather Service Mount Holly NJ
316 AM EDT Sat Sep 18 2021

DEZ004-NJZ014-024>026-190000-
/O.CON.KPHI.RP.S.0008.000000T0000Z-210919T0000Z/
Delaware Beaches-Eastern Monmouth-Atlantic Coastal Cape May-
Coastal Atlantic-Coastal Ocean-
316 AM EDT Sat Sep 18 2021

...HIGH RIP CURRENT RISK REMAINS IN EFFECT THROUGH THIS EVENING...

* WHAT...Dangerous rip currents.

* WHERE...In New Jersey, Coastal Ocean, Atlantic Coastal Cape
  May, Eastern Monmouth and Coastal Atlantic. In Delaware,
  Delaware Beaches.

* WHEN...Through this evening.

* IMPACTS...Rip currents can sweep even the best swimmers away
  from shore into deeper water.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

Entering the surf is discouraged. If caught in a rip current,
relax and float. Don`t swim against the current. If able, swim in
a direction following the shoreline. If unable to escape, face
the shore and call or wave for help.


Driver Flees Scene Of 3 Vehicle Crash In Manchester

September 16, 2021

MANCHESTER, NJ (OCEAN)–On Monday, September 14, 2021, at approximately 11:08 pm, officers from the Manchester Township Police Department responded to the intersection of County Route 571 and Lockhart Street to investigate a motor vehicle accident involving three motor vehicles, two of which impacted a residence.

Upon arrival, officers observed a 2005 Toyota Tacoma, on the front lawn of 1764 Lockhart Street with extensive front end and rear end damage. A 2010 Honda CR-V into the garage and residence of 1764 Lockhart Street with extensive rear end damage and located approximately 600 feet from the intersection of County Route 571 and Lockhart Street they observed a 2021 Hyundai Elantra facing southbound on the northbound grass shoulder of County Route 571 (extensive front end damage). Witnesses on scene stated that the 2021 Hyundai Elantra was traveling south on County Route 571 at a high rate of speed and was weaving in and out of traffic. The 2005 Toyota Tacoma was traveling south on County Route 571 in the right travel lane. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra attempted to make a lane change into the right lane when it impacted the rear of the 2005 Toyota Tacoma. The impact from the collision caused the 2005 Toyota Tacoma to run off the road and enter onto the property of 1764 Lockhart Street. As the 2005 Toyota Tacoma entered onto the property of 1764 Lockhart Street, it impacted the rear of the 2010 Honda CR-V which was parked in the driveway of 1764 Lockhart Street. The impact caused the 2010 Honda CR-V to lurch forward striking the residence and garage. After impacting the 2010 Honda CR-V, the 2005 Toyota Tacoma struck a shed that was located on the property. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra continued to travel south on County Route 571 crossing over the fog line and centerline of County Route 571 several times before coming to a stop on the northbound grass shoulder of County Route 571.

Further investigation into the accident revealed that the driver of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra, fled the scene on foot prior to police arrival. The driver of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra was later identified as, 29 year old, Alexis Connotillo of Manchester, NJ. The driver of the 2005 Toyota Tacoma, identified as 70 year old, Dominic Frizino of Manchester, NJ, was found to be uninjured at the time of the accident. The 2010 Honda CR-V was unoccupied at the time of the accident. The residence of 1764 Lockhart Street was examined by the Manchester Township Building Inspector and was deemed safe for the residents to remain in the household.

Assisting at the scene were EMTs from the Manchester Township Division of Emergency Services, firefighters from Manchester Volunteer Fire Company and Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company, Ocean County Sheriff Departments K-9 Unit, the Manchester Township Police Department Drone Unit, and the Manchester Township Building Inspector. The investigation into the crash is still ongoing, but at this point, the contributing factors of the accident are, unsafe speed, improper lane change and following too closely. This crash is being investigated by Patrolman Conner Yatauro of the Manchester Township Traffic Safety Section.


Toms River Man Pleads Guilty To Vehicular Homicide

September 15, 2021

TOMS RIVER, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on September 15, 2021, Roberto Sandoval-Guerrero, 38, of Toms River, pled guilty to Vehicular Homicide in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5b(1), before the Honorable Rochelle Gizinski, J.S.C., relative to the death of Daniel Cintron on September 5, 2020.  At the time of his sentencing on November 19, 2021, the State will recommend a term of seven years New Jersey State Prison, subject to the terms of the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2.  Sandoval-Guerrero also pled guilty to Driving While Intoxicated in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.

On September 5, 2020, the New Jersey State Police received a report of a pedestrian having been struck by a motor vehicle in the area of Garden State Parkway South at or near mile-marker post 86 in Toms River, with said vehicle then fleeing the scene.  The investigation determined that Daniel Cintron had previously been involved in a minor motor vehicle accident with another driver, Frank Puglisi.  The men exited their vehicles and were in the process of exchanging insurance information on the shoulder of the Parkway when they were struck by a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer operated by Sandoval-Guerrero.  Mr. Puglisi was struck on his left arm, while Mr. Cintron was thrown into the lanes of travel where he was run over by passing traffic.  Mr. Cintron was pronounced deceased at the scene.  Further investigation revealed that Sandoval-Guerrero continued to operate the vehicle southbound on the Garden State Parkway; he ultimately abandoned the vehicle on the shoulder and fled on foot.  Sandoval-Guerrero was eventually located in the area of Route 9 and Church Road and taken into custody.  Sandoval-Guerrero has been lodged in the Ocean County Jail since his apprehension.

Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Michael Abatemarco and Assistant Prosecutor Andrew Leimbach who handled the case on behalf of the State, as well as the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit, New Jersey State Police, Toms River Township Police Department, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, for their collaborative efforts in connection with this investigation, ultimately resulting in Sandoval-Guerrero’s guilty plea, and soon his state prison sentence.


Wild School Bus Crash Reported In Lakewood With 15 Students Aboard

September 14, 2021

LAKEWOOD, NJ (OCEAN)–A bus crash occurred on Forrest Avenue carrying at least 15 students on board around 8:00 a.m.

The Lakewood Scoop (see link for more photos and updates) reports that there were 15 girls on board the bus at the time of the crash. Luckily it appears to be minor injuries and did not require immediate hospitalization. Dozens of emergency personnel were on scene evaluating the students.

Photos provided by: The Lakewood Scoop:

U.S. Coast Guard Responds To Sinking Vessel 3 Miles Off Long Branch

September 12, 2021 — Updated with official Coast Guard information.

LONG BRANCH, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Coast Guard members rescued three people after their vessel began taking on water three miles east of Long Branch, Sunday.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay received the initial notification from the Monmouth County 911 dispatcher at 9:14 A.M. that three people aboard a sinking vessel were in need of assistance.

A 47-foot Motor Lifeboat from Coast Guard Station Manasquan Inlet was dispatched to the scene along with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, which was diverted from training.

A rescue swimmer was lowered from the helicopter and helped all three people climb aboard the Motor Lifeboat. They were transported to Shark River Marina.

No injuries or medical concerns were reported. All persons rescued were wearing lifejackets.



UPDATE: TRAFFIC ALERT LBI: Route 72 Stafford Township Has Reopened to/from LBI at Causeway

Avoid the area traffic is still a mess and backed up 1 to 2 miles in all directions.

Updated Information from Stafford Township Police:

Today, at approximately 10:20 AM, the Stafford Township Police Department received a call for a suspicious bag under the RT. 72 East Causeway Bridge, near Morris Boulevard. Out of an abundance of caution, the bridge was closed in both directions. With the assistance of the New Jersey State Police, the bag was deemed safe, and non-threatening. Afterwards, the bridge traffic was opened in both directions. We would like to thank all of the assisting agencies: NJSP, OCSD, Stafford Fire and EMS, and Ship Bottom Police and Fire.


September 12, 2021

STAFFORD TOWNSHIP, NJ (OCEAN)–Police report that the Dorland J. Henderson Memorial Bridge, Route 72 Causeway Bridges to and from Long Beach Island is closed due to an ongoing investigation.

Sources tell MidJersey.news that there is a suspicious package on one of the bridges.

AVOID THE AREA IF POSSIBLE







State Police Charge Man with Vehicular Homicide in Fatal Boating Crash in Toms River

June 9, 2021

TOMS RIVER, NJ (OCEAN)–Colonel Patrick J. Callahan and Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced today that Juan A. Fernandez II, 18, of Towaco, N.J., has been charged with vehicular homicide as a result of a boating crash in Toms River that killed Corey T. Molinari, 19, of Whippany, N.J. and injured 4 others.

On Sunday, June 13, at approximately 1:13 a.m., troopers from the New Jersey State Police Marine Services Bureau responded to Antiqua Avenue for the report of a serious vessel crash in Barnegat Bay. Upon their arrival, officers from the Toms River Police Department and local first responders were on scene treating the injured. Four occupants were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, and Corey Molinari was airlifted to Jersey Shore Medical Center where he later succumbed to his injuries.

As result of the investigation led by the Troop “C” Criminal Investigation Office, along with the NJSP Crime Scene Investigations Unit and investigators from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, detectives determined that Juan Fernandez II was operating a 2014 Bennington Pontoon boat in the Barnegat Bay when he struck Intracoastal Waterway Marker #26 head on. After the crash, he was able to navigate the vessel to Antiqua Avenue where he met Toms River police and first responders. Initially, Fernandez claimed that there were a total of six occupants on the vessel, but through various investigative means, detectives later determined that there were a total of nine occupants on the vessel prior to the crash, three who were let off just prior to the collision. At the time of the crash, two occupants were ejected.

As a result of a toxicology report on blood obtained from Fernandez on the morning of the crash and information obtained as a result of the investigation, the New Jersey State Police working in cooperation with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office charged Juan A. Fernandez II with Vehicular Homicide (2nd Degree), Strict Liability Vehicular Homicide (3rd Degree), and Hindering (Third Degree).

Juan A. Fernandez II was arrested in Boonton, N.J. on Wednesday, September 8. He was taken to NJSP Tuckerton Station where he was processed and then later lodged at the Ocean County Jail pending a bail detention hearing.

The case is being prosecuted by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.

Charges are mere accusations, and the accused is considered innocent until proven guilty.


Related MidJersey.News story here:

19 Year Old From Whippany, NJ Killed In Boating Accident; 5 Others Injured When Pontoon Boat Strikes Marker



Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Releases Findings Of November 21, 2019 Non-Fatal Officer Involved Shooting In Tuckerton

September 9, 2021

TUCKERTON, NJ (OCEAN)–The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office (OCPO) has completed its investigation into the November 21, 2019 use of force by one patrolman of the Tuckerton Police Department and has concluded that the use of force was legally justified. The OCPO determined that it is not necessary to present this matter to the grand jury because there were not material facts in dispute regarding the lawfulness of the use of force. The investigation was conducted in accordance with the then applicable Attorney General’s Independent Prosecutor Directives (Attorney General Supplemental law Enforcement Directive Regarding Uniform Statewide Procedures and Best Practices for Conducting Police Use of Force Investigations Directive 2006-5 and the Independent Prosecutor Directive 2019-4) (“Directives”). Pursuant to those Directives, the Attorney General’s Office conducted an independent review of the use of force and agreed with OCPO’s determination that there were no material facts in dispute and that the use of force by the officer was justified. The Attorney General’s Office concurred with OCPO’s conclusion to forego presentation of this matter to the Grand Jury.0

The incident occurred on November 21, 2019, at 10:22am in the Borough of Tuckerton. Officer 1 of the Tuckerton Borough Police Department attempted to effectuate a motor vehicle stop of a Black Nissan Altima at Delta Gas Station located at 109 East Main Street. Officer 1 was in uniform and approached the Nissan and advised the driver and front seat passenger, Miguel Angel Villegas, that they were being stopped for obstruction of view and a seatbelt violation.  Officer 1 could not identify a valid motor vehicle license under the name the driver provided and had asked her to exit the vehicle.

The driver exited the vehicle briefly before reentering the Nissan and accelerated out of the gas station heading north on North Green Street. The Nissan then collided with the left side of an unrelated northbound vehicle.  The Nissan came to an uncontrolled rest in the front yard of a residence on the southbound side of the road.  Officer 1 pursued the Nissan and stopped at the scene of the accident.  As he approached the unrelated vehicle on the northbound side of the road to check on the occupant, he observed Villegas and the driver outside their vehicle next to the passenger side of the Nissan on the opposite side of the road. Officer 1 further observed that Villegas had his hands in his waist area and ordered him to show his hands multiple times.  At that point in time, Villegas removed a dark colored handgun from under his clothing, pointed it at Officer 1 and began firing at him.  Officer 1 discharged his weapon in response as he had no other option to protect his life.  Neither Villegas, Officer 1, nor any bystanders were hit in the gunfire.  Villegas fled south on foot towards East Main Street, where he broke into a garage, stole a bicycle and ultimately secured a Lyft ride to North Jersey.  Officer 1 did not have a body worn camera and his vehicle was not equipped with a mobile video recorder (MVR). Surveillance video was recovered from the Delta Gas Station showing the suspect vehicle departing from the initial motor vehicle stop conducted by Officer 1. Additionally, detectives were able to recover video from the Wawa convenience store showing Villegas entering a Lyft car which enabled him to travel to North Jersey.

The driver/victim was interviewed and indicated that Villegas was her boyfriend and that he had ordered her to drive him to New Jersey from Connecticut because he was wanted by police there.  The parties traveled to Tuckerton to get fuel on their trip back home from the Atlantic City area.  Villegas had told her to provide a fake name to Officer 1 during the traffic stop, pointed a handgun at her and told her to drive while pushing her foot on the accelerator pedal.  She recalled being in the accident and being between Villegas and Officer 1 when the gunfire started and that Villegas had the gun shortly before the gunfire started.

There were multiple witnesses who observed the incident. One witness observed the entire exchange between Officer 1 and Villegas.  He confirmed that Officer 1 gave multiple verbal commands to Villegas to show him his hands to which Villegas did not comply. The citizen also observed Villegas pull out a gun and fire upon Officer 1 at which time Officer 1 returned fire. An additional witness stated she did not see the events leading up to the shooting, however, she did see a male matching the description of Villegas shooting in the direction of a police officer at the scene of the accident. A third witness observed the collision between the suspect vehicle and a third party vehicle. She observed Officer 1 order a male matching the description of Villegas to the ground with negative results. She also observed Villegas brandish a firearm and fire it toward the third party vehicle, which was in the direction of Officer 1. It was at that time she was pulled behind a vehicle by Officer 1 for protection and Officer 1 returned fire. A fourth witness observed a male matching the description of Villegas standing next to his vehicle shooting across the street in the direction of a police officer. All four of these witness accounts corroborate the timeline of events as described by Officer 1.

After a joint effort by local, county, state and federal partners, Villegas was located in New York City hours later.

Ballistic reports indicate that a total of twenty-three shots in total were fired off and accounted for during the shooting. Two of those shots were reportedly from a 9mm handgun, matching the description of the weapon in Villegas’ possession. Twenty-one shots were fired from a 40 caliber weapon, matching that of Officer 1.

Villegas was charged with Attempted Murder, Kidnapping, and Possession of Handgun for an Unlawful Purpose and Possession of Handgun without a Permit. He waived extradition to New Jersey.  On February 4, 2020, Villegas was indicted on the Attempted Murder of Officer 1, Kidnapping, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, and Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, Hindering Apprehension, and Aggravated Assault by Auto, Eluding, and Aggravated Assault of a Police Officer, Resisting Arrest, Burglary, and Certain Person Not to Possess a Firearm. 

On August 13, 2021, Villegas pled guilty to first degree Attempted Murder and third degree Hindering Apprehension. At the time of sentencing, the State is seeking 15 years New Jersey State’s Prison on the Attempted Murder charge, subject to the No Early Release Act, concurrent to a 5 year flat term on the Hindering Apprehension charge. He is to be sentenced before the Honorable Guy P. Ryan, J.S.C. on September 27, 2021.

The Office of the Attorney General and Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer are satisfied that the undisputed facts establish that Tuckerton Patrolman used the appropriate force necessary to protect his life and that of innocent bystanders and that he was legally justified in doing so. 


Related MidJersey.News story here:

New Haven, CT Man Pleads Guilty For Attempted Murder And Hindering Apprehension After Shooting At Police Officer In Tuckerton Borough In 2019