PATERSON – Why were Totowa police pursuing a moped into Paterson, an incident last week that resulted in a crash that killed the scooter’s driver and injured its passenger?
That remained unclear in the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office news release issued late Friday, almost 48 hours after the crash.
Law enforcement officers are only supposed to engage in pursuits in cases involving specific crimes or instances in which the vehicle operator poses an “imminent threat” of causing death or serious injury to someone else, under the attorney general’s guidelines.
The state press release said Totowa police in marked vehicles were following the motorist from Totowa into Paterson on Wednesday. At 7:19 p.m., the motorized scooter collided with what authorities described only as a “civilian vehicle” near the intersection of McBride and Murray avenues, officials said.
The moped driver and passenger were ejected from the scooter, according to the news release. The driver was pronounced dead at 2:06 a.m. on Thursday at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center, while the passenger suffered non-life-threatening injuries, officials said.
The Attorney General’s Office did not make public the name of the deceased, nor did state officials say why the victim’s identity was not disclosed.
The location where authorities say the crash happened has a traffic light and is a T-intersection where Murray connects with two-way traffic on McBride. The Attorney General’s Office did not say which avenue nor which direction the moped and “civilian vehicle” were traveling at the time of the collision.
The press release used the plural in describing the Totowa police vehicles pursuing the moped but did not reveal exactly how many there were. The attorney general’s guidelines say no more than two police vehicles should participate in a pursuit unless directed by a supervisor.
New Jersey law calls for the Attorney General’s Office to investigate any deaths that occur during encounters with law enforcement officers.
Paterson police were not involved in following the moped, even after the pursuit continued into the city, according to law enforcement sources.
On the day after the crash, Paterson’s Officer in Charge Isa Abbassi issued new departmental guidelines for pursuits that included restrictions more stringent than those set by the state. Abbassi’s directive allows pursuits only the driver being followed was involved in a violent crime and presents an imminent threat to the community.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. Email: [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: NJ AG quiet on why Totowa cops chased scooter driver in fatal crash