An incident in which a suspected shoplifter led police on a vehicle pursuit before crashing into a building, killing him, is under investigation, acting Union County Prosecutor Thomas K. Isenhour announced Monday.
The deceased, an adult male, has not yet been identified.
At approximately 3:55 p.m. on Sunday, November 19, 2017, a store manager at the Target on Springfield Avenue in the Vauxhall section of Union Township alerted two uniformed Union Township Police Department officers working an off-duty assignment there that an unknown male appeared to be attempting to shoplift several hundred dollars’ worth of over-the-counter medicine, according to the preliminary investigation being led by the Prosecutor’s Office.
When the officers approached the suspect and attempted to arrest him in the store’s parking lot, the man attempted to assault one of them by trying to bite him, then entered a parked Jaguar sedan and sped away, the investigation indicated.
After leading police on a brief pursuit into neighboring Springfield, the suspect failed to negotiate a turn, lost control of his vehicle, and crashed into a multi-story commercial building on Springfield Avenue. The overturned vehicle subsequently caught fire, and three police officers who arrived at the scene tried unsuccessfully to rescue the trapped driver.
Those three officers were transported to Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston for treatment for smoke inhalation, and the suspect driver was pronounced dead at the scene. It was later determined that the Jaguar he had been driving had been reported stolen out of Irvington approximately one week prior.
The building was closed at the time of the incident, and no civilians were injured.
This matter remains under an active investigation being assisted by the Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, the Union County Police Department Fatal Accident Reconstruction Team, and the Union Township Police Department. Anyone with information is being urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Sgt. Michael Manochio at 908-966-2287.