Charges filed after pedestrian struck: HPD

HPD Accident scene on night of Jan. 17.
Accident scene on night of Jan. 17.


A Harrison man was struck by an auto while walking home Sunday night, Jan. 17, police reported.

HPD Det. Lt. David Doyle said the incident occurred at about 11:49 p.m. along Manor Ave., between Harrison Ave. and Ann St.

Doyle said Antonio Couto, 62, was crossing Manor, from east to west, when he was hit by a Ford Fusion traveling south on Manor and operated by Ryan Starr, 35, also of Harrison.

Couto was taken to University Hospital, Newark, where, according to Doyle, he was treated for a fractured skull and some hemorrhaging on the brain and listed in critical condition.

However, by Jan. 19, Couto was reportedly “alert and talking,” Doyle said, and police investigators were hoping to talk to him further about the accident at some point, Doyle added.

Doyle said that Starr, who is an employee with the town’s Public Works Department, told police that he did not see Couto crossing because it was dark and there were no street lights.

Officers at the scene “observed that although Starr was steady on his feet, his speech was slurred. At the scene, psycho-physical tests were conducted which Starr reportedly failed and he was subsequently placed under arrest for DWI,” Doyle said.

Doyle said Starr “registered a .21% blood alcohol content” on his breath samples. (The legal limit for blood alcohol content in New Jersey is, typically, 0.08%.)

Starr was additionally charged with assault by auto by a drunk driver, a third degree charge, Doyle said.

After posting a 10% cash option on $1,000 bail, Starr was released pending possible court action, Doyle said.

Asked last week whether any disciplinary action would be taken against Starr, Harrison DPW Superintendent Robert Van Riper told The Observer, “The mayor and [town] council are discussing the situation. I don’t have an answer yet.”

Mayor James Fife said last week that Starr has been working for the DPW since around age 18. “I hear he’s a valued employee,” Fife said. Asked what, if anything, would happen in terms of his employment situation, the mayor said he was “leaving it up to the DPW and the police.”

Town attorney Paul Zarbetski could not be reached for comment.

– Ron Leir 

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