On February 11, a New Brunswick police officer's truck was stolen from the department's underground parking garage.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Local police arrested a man twice in one day amid a bizarre series of events that ended with cops chasing him down for the alleged theft of a police officer’s personal vehicle from the police department’s underground parking deck.

20-year-old Victor Anglo-Montanez was a resident of Stony Point, New York, according to local authorities, but he now appears to be in federal custody after being handed over to agents with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Prosecutor Judson Hamlin said that when Montanez was arrested in East Brunswick, he was wearing the same “distinctive jacket” he had been arrested in earlier that day in New Brunswick.

The 1,200-space “Wellness Plaza” parking deck on Kirkpatrick Street

The pair of arrests took place over the course of just a half-day, beginning at 11:57am, when Montanez was allegedly discovered burglarizing a woman’s vehicle parked inside downtown New Brunswick’s “Wellness Plaza” parking garage.

“The victim, a 49-year-old resident of Highland Park, reported that while walking to her vehicle, parked on the sixth floor of the parking garage, she observed the suspect sitting inside,” reads a report produced in response to a public records request.

“The victim told the suspect to leave, which he did, and left the area.”

Montanez was arrested for the alleged car burglary at 12:38pm, one floor above the scene of the crime, on the seventh floor of the massive parking deck. But after being processed at the New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD) headquarters, just one block away, he was released on his own recognizance.

Then at 5:59pm, Montanez allegedly committed another crime in another parking deck, entering the police garage and stealing a Ford F-150 truck owned by NBPD Officer Miguel Chang.

NBPD Public Information Officer Amish Shah told New Brunswick Today that: “Obviously, an individual stole one of the officer’s personal vehicles.”

The deck where most city police officers park every day is located in an underground portion of a complex known as Civic Square, which encompasses county and city government, courts, a post office, and a Rutgers University building.

Prosecutor Hamlin noted that, though it is not allowed, the police deck could potentially be accessed by pedestrians from the ramp on Kirkpatrick Street, or from staircases in the parking lot behind City Hall.

Shah, the police spokesperson, said that he “can’t discuss security measures as far as the building goes.” He encouraged residents and visitors to avoid leaving valuables visible in their parked cars and to keep vehicles secured, “whether it’s any parking deck in the city.”

Police say Chang reported his vehicle stolen once he realized it was gone, and police in neighboring East Brunswick eventually made an arrest after successfully pulling over the vehicle on Route 18 at approximately 10:06pm.

“There was a brief foot pursuit subsequent to a motor vehicle stop,” said Lt. Jason Fama of the East Brunswick Police Department.

NBPD and the North Brunswick Township Police Department had made attempts to follow the vehicle on Livingston Avenue around 7:30pm, but each terminated their pursuits for safety reasons, according to Hamlin.

The prosecutor said Montanez was driving unsafely and endangered pedestrians, other motorists, and police officers.

The young man’s rap sheet, which was clean earlier in the day, saw the addition of a slew of pending charges: burglary, motor vehicle theft, eluding, possession of stolen property, and “multiple motor vehicle violations,” according to the NBPD and EBPD.

He also faces a criminal charge related to a piece of loose ammunition, though it’s unclear if the item was actually found on Montanez, or if it had simply been in the officer’s stolen vehicle. A public defender representing Montanez said the ammunition was actually of the kind that is used for “crowd control.”

In a February 17 detention hearing, Judge Colleen Flynn ultimately ruled that Montanez should be detained pending trial on all of the charges.

“It is hard to understand how or why anyone would do something so brazen, and if you would do something so brazen, I find it very difficult to believe that he’s willing to follow orders,” said Flynn.

Judge Flynn noted she would be willing to reconsider the pretrial detention decision if Montanez were able to enroll in a suitable mental health program.

But now it appears Montanez may not make it into such a program, or even face the pending charges in court, as he was released from the Middlesex County Jail directly into the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on April 4.

It’s unclear what country Montanez hails from originally. Despite being given ample opportunity, the federal agency still has not explained why they took custody of Montanez.

New Brunswick Today first asked ICE, the notoriously secretive government division, for information about Montanez on Friday, June 30, our inquiry has been shuffled through a series of several ICE spokespersons over the course of a week, but virtually no information has come of it.

“I’ve referred this case to Philadelphia ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) as it appears subject was transferred to their custody,” said Emilio Dabul, a spokesperson who had previously asked New Brunswick Today: “What is the nature of the story angle here?”

ICE was created in 2003 as part of the Department of Homeland Security.

At least one message sent by a spokesperson was downright unserious.

“What is this hootenanny?” chimed in Jason Koontz, an ICE spokesperson who was included on a July 3 email requesting his assistance with the case. He then tried to “recall” the message.

Koontz has not addressed what he meant by his question, and although he promised to provide “some info” by July 5, he did not communicate any further.

Collaboration between ICE and the jail has been a controversial topic for much of the past two decades here in Middlesex County.

A directive from New Jersey’s Attorney General issued in 2018, and revised in 2019, limits how much help state, county, and local police can give to the federal agents.

Some of those limits won’t apply to Montanez, because his alleged eluding was deemed to have created a risk of death or injury, and that charge thus rises to the second degree.

Middlesex County Jail Warden Mark Cranston did not respond to questions on the case.

Cranston wasn’t the only one who left questions unanswered. The New Brunswick City Council’s President has repeatedly declined to speak on the security breach at public meetings.

“How can people feel safe about parking their cars in New Brunswick when even the police are getting their cars stolen?” asked this reporter on May 3.

“Any other questions?” Escobar responded, eventually re-directing questions about police matters to the Police Director Anthony Caputo, who does not attend the Council meetings.

Car thefts have reportedly increased significantly in New Jersey, though statistics for New Brunswick are not made easily available. Governor Phil Murphy recently celebrated the signing of four bills to strengthen punishments for those involved in motor vehicle thefts.

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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.

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.