A Saddle Brook police officer was suspended without pay and two of his colleagues suspended with pay Thursday following a reckless high-speed chase and alleged subsequent coverup.
Saddle Brook Officer Andres Morales, 28, was off duty when a uniformed officer in Ridgefield tried to stop his speeding BMW on Broad Avenue 2:35 a.m. Oct. 3.
Morales kept going, however, exiting onto Route 46 and then onto westbound Route 80, Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella said.
At the Route 80 split, Morales suddenly veered from the right local lane across several lanes into the express lanes, apparently in an effort to evade the pursuing officer, Ridgefield dashcam video shows.
Morales at one point stopped before flooring the accelerator again, hitting speeds of more than 100 miles an hour, authorities said.
The stop allowed the Ridgefield officer to get the car’s license plate number.
The officer broke off the chase and an alert was broadcast.
A short time later, a Bogota police officer who apparently heard the SPEN alert stopped the BMW on Saddle River Road just off Market Street in Saddle Brook.
Reports indicate that Morales refused to get out of the car but eventually relented after several other responders arrived -- among them, a Saddle Brook patrol officer and New Jersey State Police trooper.
Morales was released at the scene, authorities said.
Police Chief Robert Kugler said he learned of the incident five days later and immediately contacted Musella’s office.
Kugler suspended Morales without pay and suspended both Officer Adam Georgaros, who responded to the stop in Saddle Brook, and Lt. Victor Van Dyk, a 25-year veteran who was the tour commander that night, both with pay.
The chief said he did so “in order to ensure integrity of our police department and effective police services for our community.”
Detectives with Musella’s Confidential Investigations Unit charged Morales with eluding.
He was booked at the Bergen County Jail and released with a Nov. 4 first appearance in Central Judicial Processing Court in Hackensack.
Their investigation was continuing, Kugler said.
“Should this matter be confirmed to be accurate in the way and manner it appears to have happened, I will be extremely disappointed that Officer Morales would do such a thing and endanger the lives of others,” the chief said.
“Equally if not more disappointing and disturbing are the apparent inactions of sworn police officers on duty and at the scene who knew about it and were silent,” he said.
“The integrity of my department has been compromised,” Kugler said. "But I have full faith and confidence in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to fully investigate and unravel the circumstances involving everyone in this serious matter.”
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