A Jeep Grand Cherokee that was left unlocked in Caldwell with the keys inside became part of a costly, time-consuming night for the Verona Police Department and several other local police units this weekend.
According to the VPD, at approximately 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, July 19, Officer Brian McMahon observed an individual wearing a mask and gloves walking near two parked vehicles. When he turned his patrol vehicle around to investigate, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Toyota Rav4 fled the area. The Jeep driver crossed across Bloomfield Avenue and then headed the wrong way down Pine Street. The driver attempted to turn onto Fairview Avenue, lost control and struck a traffic light, which then fell onto the hood of Officer McMahon’s police car, causing more than $2,000 in damage. A passenger in the car fled on foot.
Officer McMahon and Sergeant Robert Juliano took the Jeep’s driver, a 16-year-old male from Essex County, into custody. The passenger was soon located in an Orchard Street backyard by Fairfield Police officers, one of several police units from neighboring towns that had responded to assist with the Jeep and the Rav4, which was found to have been stolen from Holmdel. Officer Robert Maguire had followed that vehicle before he discontinued to assist Officer McMahon.
The passenger, a 15-year-old female who is also from Essex County, and the driver were taken to VPD headquarters for processing. According to the VPD, the young woman became combative, spit directly into one officer’s face, kicked at multiple officers, and caused property damage. She was charged with resisting arrest, drug possession, aggravated assault, throwing bodily fluids at a law enforcement officer and criminal mischief. The driver was charged with possession of stolen property, eluding, and numerous motor vehicle offenses. Both juveniles were later transported to the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center. The officer that the passenger spit on went to Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center for evaluation.
VPD Captain David Wardrope today urged residents to lock their cars and take the keys. “I don’t want anybody hurt or killed,” he said, “because somebody forgot their keys inside their vehicle.”