Barely a foot of space prevented a tragedy on the streets of Leonia after a Texas man who police said stole a taxi in Manhattan’s Chelsea section after beating the driver got the vehicle wedged between a building and a traffic light pole in the borough’s business district during a chase.
“This could have turned out much worse. This guy could have killed parents and kids,” Lt. Tom Rowe, the Leonia police commander, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “If it wasn’t for being pinned in, he would have barreled onto the next sidewalk.”
Instead, the cab got jammed at the Leonia Market on the corner of Broad Avenue and Fort Lee Road — one of the area’s heaviest-traveled school crossings.
The driver, 40-year-old Brian C. Ambrose of Ingleside, TX, tried to make a run for it, but he was quickly tackled by officers who Rowe said he then fought with.
Ambrose remained in the custody of Bergen County Sheriff’s officers this afternoon at Bergen Regional Medical Center, where he was taken after the 8:20 a.m. crash yesterday — a short time before youngsters began heading to the Anna C. Scott School.
Bail was set at $100,000.
Ambrose, who was medically cleared around 3 a.m. this morning, is charged with aggravated assault on police, eluding, resisting arrest, child endangerment and receiving stolen property, among other counts.
He also faces carjacking and other charges in Manhattan.
Two officers from Palisades Park and one from Leonia were injured in the incident, which began just before 7:30 a.m. yesterday when Ambrose pulled the cabbie from his hack on 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue, beat him and took off in the vehicle, Rowe said.
After speeding up the West Side Highway and across the George Washington Bridge, the lieutenant said, Ambrose ended up in Palisades Park.
Police knew he was there because the owner of the cab company installed a GPS device on the car and immediately contacted them after it ended up on this side of the river. Officers in cruisers spotted the cab heading north on Broad Avenue into Leonia and began chasing it.
Soon after, Rowe said, it mounted the sidewalk, then went about a block — with no fewer than four pedestrians quickly getting out of the way — before crashing.
Besides two Palisades Park officers injured during the arrest — one of whom needed stitches — Leonia Sgt. Scott Tamagny got headbutted by Ambrose while processing the handcuffed defendant at headquarters, Rowe said.
PHOTO/MUGSHOT: Courtesy Leonia PD
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