UPDATE: Authorities on Thursday tentatively identified a man whose body was recovered from a New Jersey river following a police chase. They also officially acknowledged that the incident was being investigated.
The announcement follows a story by Daily Voice exploring the circumstances that led to the death of Thadius Wilder, a 35-year-old father of five from Passaic whose body apparently was in the water for two days before it was discovered.
Wilder’s body was removed from the Passaic River below Route 21 after kayakers spotted it around 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1, City of Passaic Police Chief Luis Guzman said in an official release issued early Thursday evening.
Wilder was last seen running from police on the highway around that same time on Saturday, Guzman said, confirming Wednesday's published account.
Family members and authorities are still waiting for a positive identification by a New Jersey medical examiner in Newark even though the dead man’s sister provided dental records, closeup images of various scars, birthmarks, tattoos and other distinguishing marks and even a photo of the sneakers that he was wearing the night he vanished.
Wilder had a record of drug-related offenses, including a 2007 conviction that sent him to state prison for roughly a year and a half, records show.
“That means they have his fingerprints,” said his sister, Amber Wilder-Hunter of Garfield.
Detectives also told her they found Wilder’s ID in his pocket, she added.
Police chased Wilder because he was wanted on an unspecified arrest warrant, Guzman said Thursday. Law enforcement sources said it was for dealing drugs.
According to the chief:
“On July 30, 2022 officers from the Passaic Police Housing Unit observed Mr. Wilder in the area of Speer Village and ordered him to stop; however, Mr. Wilder refused to yield to the arrest and ran southbound on Route 21. Officers lost sight of Mr. Wilder and were unable to locate him despite establishing a perimeter; the search was called off after a short time due to high volume of traffic on the highway.”
State law requires the state Attorney General's Office to investigate all deaths in New Jersey that occur “during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody."
The guidelines guarantee that the investigation by the attorney general's Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) is done “in a full, impartial and transparent manner," removing politics or personal agendas.
Once the investigation is complete, the results are presented to a grand jury.
The grand jury reviews a host of evidence -- including witness interviews, body and dashcam video, and forensic and autopsy results -- to determine whether or not there's cause to suspect any wrongdoing on the part of law enforcement.
Guzman confirmed on Thursday that such an investigation has begun with assistance from his department’s Internal Affairs Division and the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
“I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Wilder,” Passaic Mayor Hector C. Lora said Thursday. “This is a terrible tragedy and our sympathies are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”
It is, indeed, tragic for Wilder’s loved ones.
Speaking with police supervisors and civilians over the past several days, his sister assembled a timeline of events leading to her brother’s death.
Wilder-Hunter said she told police that her brother had been spotted in the water but that they doubted his body was there. CONTINUED....
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