Driver nabbed in highway hit-run

A Belleville man was being held in the Bergen County Jail on $100,000 bail following his arrest last week on multiple charges in connection with a serious hit-run on Rt. 17 in Rutherford, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli reported.

The motorist, Jorge Alfredo Velasquez Ruiz, allegedly struck a man who had been standing on the highway median, attempting to fix his bicycle, at about 10:15 p.m., Aug. 27. Ruiz fled the scene, leaving the injured victim on the ground, police said.

As of last week, that victim, identified by authorities only as a 32-year-old man, was still hospitalized at Hackensack University Medical Center for treatment of head and leg trauma, Molinelli’s office said.

According to investigators from the Prosecutor’s Office and the Rutherford Police Department, the culprit vehicle had been traveling south on Rt. 17, changing lanes multiple times, when the driver attempted to exit the highway, failed to negotiate the turn and jumped the median. After striking the victim, they said, the car backed on to the road and fled the scene, continuing south.

The vehicle was described by witnesses as a red sedan bearing Maryland plates and with a damaged front windshield.

During the course of the investigation, detectives said, they received information from a tipster regarding a red, 2004 Saturn Ion with Maryland plates and a damaged windshield, registered to Ruiz.

On Aug. 31, detectives located the Saturn at a residence in Belleville.

Inspection showed the windshield had been recently replaced but there was still evidence of the car’s having been involved in the accident, authorities said. It was impounded by the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department.

Ruiz was taken into custody at the residence and subsequently charged with: assault by auto, leaving the scene of an accident, aggravated assault, endangering an injured victim, and hindering apprehension and/or prosecution.

He was also issued summonses for reckless driving and unsafe lane change.

Ruiz was remanded to the county jail in lieu of the $100,00 bail, with no 10% cash option, set by Rutherford Municipal Court Judge Warren Stroedecke. The defendant is due to be arraigned Sept. 15 in that court.

– Karen Zautyk 

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