Mystery surrounds discovery of graveside shell casings

Rifle shell casings were reported found on the gravestone of the child of a North Arlington police superior officer during the Memorial Holiday weekend, police said.

The officer involved, Sgt. Tony Abilio, had sued the North Arlington Police Department and the borough in 2010, claiming they had created a “hostile work environment” for him and had bypassed him for promotion.

In a statement released last Thursday, Police Chief Louis Ghione said that a “family member’ of the officer involved reported a “suspicious incident” at 4:02 p.m. on May 29 in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.

The family member reported finding two rifle shell casings placed on the gravestone where the child was buried.

“There is currently an ongoing investigation to determine how these rifle shell casings may have ended up at that location,” a statement released by North Arlington P.D. said.

“If it is determined that these rifle shell casings were placed at that location as a threat to one of our police officers or his family members, then every effort from local and county police agencies will be utilized to determine who the [suspect] may be and any [suspect] identified will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

North Arlington Police Capt. John Hearn said last Friday, “It appears that those casings were blank ceremonial rounds” which, he said, have been known to have been fired “in an area of the cemetery where 9/11 victims and marines killed in the line of duty are buried.”

Hearn said it also appears that the casings found were “very weathered, older, and, therefore, may have been around for some time.”

“Is it possible someone may have moved [the casings] closer to the headstone? We don’t know,” Hearn said.

For possible clues, Hearn said the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation will likely be checking the casings for any traces of fingerprints and the types of rounds involved.

Efforts to reach the prosecutor’s office last Friday were unsuccessful.

Abilio and his wife lost two children to a rare muscular disease.

Sometime before the officer’s lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial, the borough approved a legal settlement but neither side released the terms. Abilio was, however, promoted to sergeant.

Asked about the incident, North Arlington Mayor Peter A. Massa said he was briefed about the circumstances by the police chief. “It’s a very unfortunate situation. Since it’s under a police investigation, I better let the Police Department handle it.”

Anyone with information about the cemetery incident is asked to contact the North Arlington Police Department at 201-955-5684.

– Ron Leir

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