An off-duty Nutley cop has been credited with coming to the aid of a stabbing victim at a Clifton shopping mall and thereby saving that person’s life.
Nutley Police Chief Tom Strumolo said he was recommending Officer David Strus
for a departmental award for his heroic actions.
The incident in which Strus, a 19-year member of the force, was involved happened last Monday, April 14, shortly before 7:30 a.m., at the Richfield
Shopping Center, Clifton Ave. and Allwood Road, in neighboring Clifton.
According to a report issued by Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes and Clifton Police Chief Gary F. Giardina, Clifton PD were dispatched to the shopping center on a report of a stabbing.
They said a preliminary investigation revealed that a homeless man named Harry Werner, 61, began to attack 67-year-old Clifton resident Paul Baker by stabbing him with a knife outside the shopping center. The wound ultimately proved fatal, police said.
Police said an acquaintance of Baker, 80-year-old Clarence Wispelwey tried to come to his friend’s aid, whereupon Werner allegedly then stabbed Wispelwey.
While this was happening, police said Strus – who was in plainclothes while providing security for a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts store – intervened by tackling and disarming the suspect and then detaining him until Clifton cops got to the scene and took Werner into custody.
Wispelwey, meanwhile, was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Paterson, where he was listed in stable condition last week.
“[Strus’s] actions were instrumental in stopping the [accused] and had he not been there, others could have been harmed,” Chief Strumolo said.
Werner has been charged with murder, attempted murder, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose.
If convicted of murder, Werner could face sentencing for 30 years to life in state prison; a guilty verdict on attempted murder could result in being sentenced to 10 to 20 years; convictions on the weapons charges could lead to a sentence of three to five years, police said.
– Ron Leir