KPD: Alleged thieves crash car into Forest Junction condo, rendering it uninhabitable; one suspect already out of custody

A crash March 17 at the Forest Junction condos in Kearny resulted in significant damage, it displaced numerous residents and was all the result of road rage — but two men were arrested and now face serious charges, police said.

First, some background.

Jonathan Vega, 30, of Newark and Alize Nulls, 28, of Paterson, were both taken into custody and charged with robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, aggravated assault, causing or risking widespread injury or damage, obstruction by flight, trespassing, burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, possession of burglary tools and receiving stolen property.

Police say it appears two vehicles chased down a third, north on Davis Avenue, until reaching the dead end, at which point they all crashed. The occupants of the chasing vehicles then jumped the driver they were chasing and stole his cash and other belongings.

The 12-unit condominium building has since been evacuated until it can be deemed safe.

A victim told police he was driving from Newark to Kearny to see a friend, when a Dodge began to tap into his rear bumper in an effort to get him to pull over. When victim wouldn’t pull over (likely to be robbed) the Dodge began ramming him harder, nearly causing him to spin out. Speeds rose and the robbers chased him into the crash. (Editors note: The New Jersey Attorney Generals Office bans police pursuits but technically does not govern the actions of criminals, so they were allowed to chase their target.)

Police then canvassed the area and located the two suspects. Most surprisingly, the Dodge they had been driving was stolen; however, the criminals had outfitted it with a “valid” license plate belonging to a Toyota (a common tactic which obscures the stolen nature of the vehicle, therefore disallowing pursuits). The second pursuing vehicle was a rental, which was under another person’s name, also a common tactic to obscure police detection.

Meanwhile, camera footage confirmed the victim’s narrative. A handgun was reportedly also involved, but it was not recovered as the suspects likely rid themselves of it before apprehension.

The victim’s stolen cash was recovered from the captured suspects.

Police say the incident could have gone much worse, with three vehicles passing through residential streets at speeds that were high enough to partially take out the foundation of a building. The damage to the building was severe as the foundation wall, complete with electrical service and meters for the units, were taken out. The Kearny Fire Department inspected the building and deemed it to be hazardous and structurally unsound, thus, residents could no longer remain there until repairs could be made.

Meanwhile, at the request of Mayor Carol Jean Doyle, Police Chief George King further explained details of the case.

“It began in Elizabeth and culminated in a road-rage incident and a crash in Harrison, King said. “Two vehicles were chasing each other. The vehicles then went into the parking lot (at Davis and Midland) where they rammed a residence, sending that vehicle through the wall and it damaged the power to the building — so the entire building was without power …all of the panels on the outside, they were destroyed.”

King also noted there was damage interiorly to water heaters, yet another reason why the building was deemed uninhabitable.

The suspects, meanwhile, were ultimately found in the meadows after police deployed their drones.

“The use of our drone has paid for itself 10 times over,” King said. “We were able to make an apprehension with this, we made one on Belgrove Drive where we found one of the parties hiding on a roof … we used the drone with the fights on Kearny Avenue that we previously discussed. So the use of this technology has really come in handy and paid dividends.”

Now, since numerous residents were, indeed, displaced, Officer Richard Poplaski Jr., one of the town’s two deputy coordinators of emergency management, was called to the scene and with the assistance of the Red Cross, he found temporary housing for all residents, including for some who had no nearby family to stay with. Residents were, however, allowed to retrieve some belongings before being placed in temporary housing.

King also noted how fortunate it was the incident concluded as it did.

“With the type of incident … there were no injuries,” the chief said.

King says investigators will be backtracking through the municipalities where the chase occurred to see if further charges could be levied.

Doyle, meanwhile, who like Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Ficeto, was at Kearny PD Headquarters after the incident, took time to levy praise for how well the KPD handled the incident.

“I want to compliment Officer Poplaski — he was excellent, took time with each resident, he provided donuts and coffee to keep everybody calm,” the mayor said. “Two families didn’t have families to go to (and to stay with.) But the Red Cross was there quickly and it was just commendable, chief, (as was) your staff.”

Nulls is currently in custody at the Hudson County Jail in South Kearny.

Vega was released from custody earlier this week. However, this is clearly not his first foray into crime. In fact, in 2017, he was arrested as part of a state police sting that involved the theft of high-end vehicles in Bergen County — Bentleys, BMWs and Mercedezes — resulting in conspiracy, financial facilitation of criminal activity, fencing, receiving stolen property, theft by unlawful taking and burglary charges. In that case, Vega was ultimately sentenced to 18 months in state prison.


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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.