Elizabeth man charged in connection with police chase that ended in fatal wreck

An Elizabeth man has been arrested and charged with being responsible for leading police on a vehicle pursuit that ended in a crash that took the life of an innocent motorist last weekend, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Wednesday.

Surpris Ophilien Jr., 30, is charged with first-degree aggravated manslaughter, second-degree death by auto, second-degree eluding police, two second-degree weapons offenses, third-degree resisting arrest, and related traffic violations, including leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

It was approximately 2:30 a.m. Saturday when Elizabeth Police Department patrol units were called to the Allstar Nightclub on 3rd Street in Elizabeth on a report of an altercation. On their way to the scene, two Elizabeth police officers in a patrol vehicle spotted a green GMC pickup truck being driven by Ophilien travel through a red light at a high rate of speed.

Ophilien subsequently led the officers on a brief vehicle pursuit, but once the pickup truck started traveling the wrong way down a one-way street, the pursuit was terminated. Moments later, however, the officers heard a loud vehicle collision take place a short distance away, on an overpass for a ramp leading to North Avenue East in Elizabeth.

Ophilien, who was found to be in possession of a .45-caliber handgun, climbed out of the wrecked pickup and ran a short distance, leaping from the overpass to the roadway below before being arrested. The critically injured driver of the vehicle Ophilien had struck on the overpass, 25-year-old Edward Coleman of East Orange, was rushed to University Hospital in Newark, where he was pronounced dead several hours later.   

Ophilien remains in custody on $750,000 bail set by state Superior Court Judge Scott J. Moynihan. 

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.