NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A city police officer was injured on February 4 after being run over by a New Brunswick police truck on Comstrock Street while chasing suspects in a burglary.
That led to a manhunt that is continuing, and a search for the vehicle that lasted for a half-hour. The truck was recovered by New Brunswick police inside Fulton Square, a gated community roughly a half-mile from the site it was taken.
NBPD notified other departments of the stolen vehicle, and searched the nearby Cook/Douglass Campus of Rutgers, as well as the Sears, and areas near Pine Street Park and Commercial Avenue.
The incident began around 12:07am, when city police responded to a burglary in progress at 48 Baldwin Street, near Jones Avenue, and were only able to capture one of two suspects: 24-year-old Duane Quarles, Jr., of Plainfield.
According to NJ.com’s Vernal Coleman, Quarles is being charged with burglary, eluding, conspiracy to commit attempted murder, obstruction, resisting arrest, aggravated assault on police, and theft.
“The second suspect is described as an African-Amercian male wearing blue thermal underwear,” reads a press release issued by NBPD Captain JT Miller.
That suspect hopped into NBPD unit #847, a pickup truck that had been left running with the keys in the ignition, and drove towards Nichol Avenue.
In front of 62 Comstock Street, the truck struck the officer, who sufferred minor injuries.
“The suspect jumped in the vehicle and ran me over,” said the officer over the police radio.
“Officer down,” said another.
Police did not confirm the identity of the officer who was injured.
The officer was taken to a local hospital, with Detectives Michael DeBonis and John Drury following behind.
A supervisor on scene confirmed that the truck had been taken and not been located as of 12:30pm.
Just minutes later, the vehicle was found at the intersection of Hickory Drive and Evergreen Court, in a gated community known as Fulton Square, according to police radio transmissions.
The vehicle was unoccupied and had all of the officer’s equipment and cellphone.
A security guard at the development described the driver of the police truck as a black female.
The Dodge Dakota police vehicles are made especially for blocking off traffic at construction sites and for other road closures, according to a 2011 report by Joe Malinconico for Patch.com.
“They’re stripped down pickup trucks. Just lights,” said one officer over the police radio.
The NBPD makes nearly a half-million dollars each year in the fees it charges businesses, public utilities like PSE&G, and developers building new buildings for “extra-duty” officers, and the vehicles that come with them.
The Dakotas have a fuel-saving mechanism that shuts their engines on and off, depending on the juice in their batteries, and allows the flashing lights to remain on, former city spokesperson Bill Bray told Malinconico.
But, presumably, officers must leave the keys in the ignition for that feature to work.
“New Brunswick that doesn’t have GPS in it, does it?” asked another officer, while the search for it was underway.
“It’s not coming up on my map. Negative,” responded a dispatcher.
Instead, police tried to solicit help from Verizon Wireless to use GPS to locate an officer’s cellphone that was in the vehicle. It’s unclear if the strategy was responsible for the ultimate recovery of the vehicle
Police radios are another feature that the trucks do not have, quelling concerns that the vehicle’s thief may have been listening in to police attempts to apprehend them.
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.