By Karen Zautyk
A 22-year-old Kearny man was arrested last week on a charge of aggravated arson after he allegedly torched a car on a township street in the predawn hours of Sunday, June 8.
Police Chief John Dowie credited residents in the area with helping officers apprehend the suspect.
According to police, at approximately 4:30 a.m., a man was seen using a hammer to smash the windows of a parked car near Belgrove Drive and Peden Terrace and then setting the vehicle on fire.
Officer Tom Floyd arrived at the scene to find the 2000 Toyota “fully engulfed” in flames, alerted the Fire Department and located witnesses, who said the suspect had fled down Belgrove in a blue Hyundai, Dowie noted.
Police issued a BOLO, and Det. Mike Andrews, who was on patrol duty due to short-staffing in the KPD, spotted a car matching the description traveling north on Passaic Ave. and “swerving all over the road,” Dowie said.
When Andrews attempted to stop the auto, a chase ensued along Passaic and then east on Stewart Ave., police said. The detective finally brought the Hyundai to a halt on Kearny Ave. near Roosevelt School and arrested the driver, Anthony DaSilva, on a charge of eluding.
Andrews reportedly detected a strong odor of alcohol and, in plain view on the passenger seat, saw a hammer. During a search incident to arrest, DaSilva was found to be in possession of an aerosol can of deodorant and a cigarette lighter, police said.
A follow-up investigation was conducted by Det. Ray Lopez, who interviewed witnesses and gathered statements, and KFD Chief Inspector John Donovan was alerted to the suspected arson.
In addition to eluding and aggravated arson, DaSilva was charged with criminal mischief, possession of a weapon, burglary, possession of burglar tools, and DWI.
“My praise to the area residents who were very cooperative and timely in their reporting [of the incident] and who extended their courtesy to us by staying up in the middle of the night and provide statements,” Dowie said.
“We rely on our good citizens to be our eyes and ears,” he noted.
The chief would not speculate on a motive for the alleged arson, but he commented, “You don’t normally do something like this randomly.”