KPD: Attorney general’s directive allows wanted man armed with gun & hollow-point bullets to escape in stolen vehicle … police catch him despite this hindrance

Editors note: The following entry really, actually happened.

On March 29 at 1:57 p.m., a Wilson Avenue resident flagged down Officer Pedro Pina to report someone had just stolen her 2021 Dodge Durango SUV while she was warming it up, unoccupied, in front of her home. Moments later, Officer John Donovan spotted a man driving the stolen Durango near Dukes Street and Schuyler Avenue. When Officer Donovan turned on his emergency lights and siren, the driver of the Durango drove away.

This required the police officer to make a quick legal calculation. Under the Attorney General’s new vehicular pursuit policy, issued in December, Officer Donovan could not pursue the vehicle for auto theft alone, a crime that has increased 37% year-to-date statewide since 2021. However, if Officer Donovan knew the alleged car thief was also an un-apprehended defendant for a recent second-degree aggravated assault charge (which the officer did not yet know), then he could have pursued.

Or could he?

If Officer Donovan knew the man was wanted for a specific degree of aggravated assault — one of the Attorney General’s enumerated offenses — this would mean he also knew the defendant’s identity, in which case, the Attorney General does not authorize a pursuit.

If you think this is an unwieldy amount of information to process while driving, radioing in to one’s superiors, and trying not to be injured by what later turned out to be an armed criminal, you’re not alone.

Officer Donovan shut off his emergency lights and the alleged scofflaw sped off. Legal impotence would have enabled his escape except that the alleged thief parked and bailed out at Davis Avenue and Devon Terrace. Officer Donovan quickly found the abandoned SUV. Detectives at police headquarters immediately reviewed a town surveillance camera mounted on an area firehouse and broadcast a description of the defendant, who had run up Devon Terrace.

Armed with a good description, officers canvassed the area.

A half hour after the theft, Lt. Charlie Smith and Sgt. Neil Nelson saw the driver walking on Wilson Avenue off of Kearny Avenue. When the officers approached, the defendant ran. Det. Michal Gontarczuk blocked the man’s path, identifying him now as James H. Lopez, 21, of Kearny, who was wanted as the suspect in an attempted knife slashing incident of a high school student on Kearny Avenue a couple of weeks ago. For that case, warrants issued charging Lopez with second degree aggravated assault and weapon possession charges, but he had not yet been apprehended.

Sgt. Nelson tripped Lopez and the three officers arrested him. In a bag strapped crosswise around his chest, officers recovered a Taurus G2C 9mm handgun. An eighteen-round capacity ammunition magazine was seated in the gun. The magazine was loaded with nine hollow-point cartridges and eight cartridges of ball ammunition.

Lopez was processed on his outstanding warrant. For the new incident, Lopez was charged with unlawful firearm possession, possession of a high-capacity magazine, possession of hollow-nose rounds, and two counts of obstructing the administration of law. Additional charges may be pending. Lopez was held in the Hudson County jail.

On Feb. 8 at 9:44 p.m., a local man stopped at the Domino’s Pizza on Kearny Avenue to talk to the manager about an October refund he felt he was due. A different manager was now at the store who disavowed knowledge of this refund and refused to grant it. The customer then took a cell phone photo inside the store, ostensibly to document when, for the absent manager, he had come to collect.

When the customer exited the pizzeria, it was alleged the manager followed him, wrapped both his arms around the customer, and demanded his cell phone. The customer fell to the ground and the manager allegedly wrested control of the phone before throwing it onto a nearby roof. In the struggle, the customer also lost one of his Apple Air Pod Pro headphones, valued in a pair at $189.

The fire department assisted in retrieving the customer’s iPhone from the roof.

The $720 phone was now damaged and would not power on.

The pizza manager, identified as Mateus David, 20, of Newark, reportedly took an Uber home right after the altercation. He was gone before police arrived. However, Det. Mike Farinola later identified David and drew up a warrant charging him with robbery and criminal mischief.

On March 30, Farinola, with Det. Jordenson Jean and Sgt. Neil Nelson arrested David at the Domino’s store without incident. David was later transferred to the county jail.

On March 29 at 8:18 p.m., Officers Jordan Miranda and Anthony Oliveira were dispatched to Kearny Wine & Liquor on a report a man had just shoplifted beer. The alleged pilsner pilferer did not make it too far, the cops finding him by the 700 block of Kearny Avenue with beer cans in his sweatshirt pockets.

The suspect was later identified as Marcio O. Silva, 41, of Albrightsville, Pennsylvania.

Silva refused to stop walking when the officers tried to detain him, allegedly handing over one Bud Light beer can and dropping another. When the handcuffs came out, Silva allegedly resisted by pulling his arms away and then hugging a pole at a nearby gas station. The officers had to wrestle Silva to the ground while he reportedly challenged them to shoot him.

Assisted by Officer David Vazquez, the officers eventually handcuffed Silva and recovered two more cans of beer from him. After all this, liquor store management declined to prosecute for shoplifting. Officers charged Silva with obstructing the administration of law and resisting arrest. They later released him to a local hospital for an evaluation.

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Capt. Timothy Wagner | Kearny Police Department
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Capt. Timothy Wagner is the Kearny Police Department's public-information officer and the commander of the department's Internal Affairs Unit. He contributes the KPD Blotter weekly and writes it completely.