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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—More than 36 hours after a Rutgers University Police Department patrol car struck and injured a student crossing the street, the University’s Media Relations Department has yet to issue a statement or respond to numerous requests for comment.
NewBrunswickToday.com has thus far been the only media outlet to cover the accident. Based on eyewitness accounts and comments posted on social media websites, a student’s leg was badly injured after being struck by a Rutgers police car that may have been exceeding the 25 mph speed limit on College Avenue.
University spokesman Greg Trevor did not respond to an emailed request for comment from NewBrunswickToday.com sent early Thursday morning. A phone message left with a woman in his office had not been returned as of this morning.
The school’s award-winning newspaper The Daily Targum, decided against running a story about the accident in today’s edition, partly because the University had not responded to their requests for comment either.
Instead the paper used its opinion page to briefly criticize the driver of the police vehicle, even though its authors admit they are “not sure who’s at fault just yet.” The student paper does not publish on Saturday or Sunday.
Multiple accounts of the incident said the patrol car was driving at an unsafe speed past one of the three major bus stops on the College Avenue campus immediately before striking the student.
“The cop was speeding in the bus lane and like hit him pretty bad. Feel so bad for the kid,” said one eyewitness on Twitter.
The tragic incident occurred at 5:24pm on Wednesday. The accident scene was cleared within about 40 minutes, while the student was taken by ambulance to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital with a badly injured leg.
The officer used a turn of phrase to describe the accident when he radioed a dispatcher that suggested his vehicle was “hit” by the pedestrian.
“Student jumped between buses and hit the patrol car,” he said calmly over the screams of the injured person. (Listen to the police radio transmissions here.)
The University’s head of transportation told NewBrunswickToday.com that University police were investigating the accident internally. Neither the driver nor the victim have been identified by authorities.
Twitter user @ElvisCake was the first to report the incident on the popular social media site: “Kid just got hit by Rutgers cop car,” he tweeted at 5:25pm.
Reactions were mixed on social media websites. Some commenters said they were jealous that the student could potentially make a lot of money from the accident or “free tuition.”
Others said it was his fault for darting into traffic at the busy intersection, and that he needed to be held accountable.
“Running out into the street between two busses, presumably outside of a cross walk…” tweeted one user.
A photograph of the scene shared on the website Twitpic shows the victim was aided by medics a good distance away from a crosswalk, though it is unclear where he was at the time of the accident.
But the most common reaction on social media was sadness and sympathy.
One user posted on Twitter to say, “Omg i wanna cry this student got hit by a rutgers police car! So sad,” at 5:39pm.
“Pray For The Kid Who Got Hit By A Car At Rutgers Today,” was a frequently re-tweeted statement in the hours following the accident.
On the Facebook page belonging to the author of this article, a spirited discussion took place about the incident.
“Nobody likes the RUPD but if your enough of an idiot to walk nonchalantly into traffic on a main thoroughfare…it’s kind of hard to be sympathetic to that,” said resident and Rutgers student Barry Dyke.
“Is this just another example of the police in this town’s cavalier attitude, where they drive around too fast in their monster cars and trucks, wearing tactical vests and carrying guns in drop-leg holsters like wanna-be Delta Force?” asked alumnus Tom Radtke.
Another Rutgers alum, AJ Bozenmayer, offerred a more balanced opinion:
“Crosswalks, traffic signals, and road signs all exist for a reason. All users of the public roads have their own responsibilities. Pedestrians are no exception… It is definitely safe to say, that pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists ALL behave recklessly in this particular intersection. We need a complete redesign of this area’s traffic flow.”
The Rutgers University Police Department consists of 50 commissioned police officers, 23 full time security officers, and 9 dispatchers on the New Brunswick-Piscataway campus.
Officers are commissioned “by the State of New Jersey’s Police Training Commission and receive the same training and certification as municipal police officers in the state. “
The department has statewide jurisdiction, and also supervisor smaller divisions in Newark and Camden.
In July 2011, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. awarded the Rutgers University Police Department full advanced law enforcement accreditation.
Correction: An earlier version of this story implied that University spokesman Greg Trevor had ignored NewBrunswickToday.com’s Thursday morning email requesting a comment. According to Trevor, his “office email was down yesterday.
“So it is both inaccurate and appears to be malicious for you to state that I “ignored” your message.”
We regret the error and sincerely apologize to Mr. Trevor. We are still anxiously awaiting his first public comments on the issue at hand.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.