OMG! This Stuff Really Happened in 2011
It was a crazy year in crime.
A lot of big things happened. This post isn't about them.
Because fortunately for the OMGs from NJ PDs column writer(s), a lot of strange, surprising, stunning and sometimes silly stuff happened too, in towns throughout New Jersey. This year, OMGs started up, collecting some of the biggest head-smackers around the state into a weekly digest for your, um, weekly digestion. You're welcome.
Some of the stories that caught our eye this year:
(Big, big OMG-please-don't-sue-us disclaimer: The following accounts reflect incidents as reported by police and other authorities shortly after they occurred. Some criminal charges may have progressed through the justice system, and some may have resulted in not-guilty verdicts, dropped charges, picked up charges, misplaced charges, electrical charges or charges to your Macy's card. If you've got an update, let us know.)
Where Are You Staying? Everywhere: You know what doesn't usually get the police department's attention? Checking into a hotel. You know when it does? When you're suspected of staying in a bunch of hotels without paying, and you walk right into the lobby of one while an officer's there investigating the case. It happened at the Parsippany Staybridge Suites, police said. The accused was transported to jail in lieu of $2,500 bail ... if he wasn't going to pay to stay somewhere overnight, he apparently wasn't going to pay not to.
When You Go To Court, Don't Forget Your Suit, Your Lawyer and Your PCP: East Windsor police say an officer was escorting a man from a regularly scheduled court appearance Jan. 10 when the man fell ill and said he was having a reaction to a PCP-laced cigarette. The officer found the PCP on the man, police say ... then reported feeling lightheaded himself. Then an EMT who had treated the man started feeling woozy. Ultimately, they and an ambulance were all decontaminated.
Smile! Ever use your phone in the bathroom? That's sort of icky. But don't worry too much—Montclair police say you've been out-icked. They arrested a 26-year-old man on invasion of privacy charges in January after he allegedly left his phone—with its camera—tucked inside a tissue box in the women's bathroom of an A&P. A female employee noticed the tissue box, with a small hole in it, on the top of the toilet tank, police said. OMG, that is I-C-K-Y.
Prosecutors Say He Didn't Start The Fire—At The House He Meant To: A Hillsborough man can say without any argument he absolutely, certainly, positively, did not set fire to his ex-girlfriend's current boyfriend's house. But it wasn't for lack of trying, according to the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office. And the man was indicted on a charge of second-degree arson. Prosecutors say the man did indeed set fire to a home on Fox Chase Run in Hillsborough, looking to get back at his ex and her new man. The only problem (OK, not the only problem)? It was the wrong house. The person who actually lives at the targeted home, along with neighbors, was able to extinguish the early-morning fire before it spread, authorities said.
Honk, Honk, I'm Drunk: Sometimes, the cops have to be really eagle-eyed to spot an alleged drunk driver. But sometimes, those who've been hitting the bottle too hard make it easy on the officers. On Feb. 17 in Garwood, police found a woman honking her horn in the municipal lot outside the police station, in a handicapped spot. The car's driver got out and approached an officer, displaying outward signs of being under the influence, police said. The driver submitted to a breath test, which showed .21 percent blood alcohol content—a little shy of three times the legal limit. She was issued several summons and released pending appearance in Municipal Court.
You Shouldn't Lie to Your Mother ... Or Set Her Car On Fire: A Blackwood man's mother apparently thought her car had been stolen from Florida. But police say the car was hard for them to miss: The Blackwood man had allegedly set it on fire near his apartment; it was his way of dealing with its many mechanical issues, police said. The man was charged with arson. No word on whether he was sent to his room without supper.
April Fool: No one likes dealing with someone who's drunk and unruly. And driving. Especially not the cops. But Parsippany police say a 52-year-old Chatham man was beeping his horn and shouting at another driver a traffic light on April Fool's Day—only to learn the other driver was a cop in an unmarked car. The man was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, as well as driving while suspended. New Jersey state statutes don't include a charge for driving while obnoxious.
Tip for Job-Hunters—Don't Steal From Your Would-Be Employer: At least this guy had hands-on experience. The owner of Cranford Plumbing, Heating & Cooling told police that one night, someone had taken copper tubing from his company vehicle. But while police were keeping an eye out for suspects, one walked right in the business's front door. Police say a 19-year-old showed up looking for a job at the business, which would have been usual enough—if the owner didn't recognize the teen as the same person seen on surveillance video taking the copper. So the owner once again called the coppers ... er, cops ... and they stopped the teen's vehicle shortly after. The teen was arrested, and released pending a court appearance. Presumably, he didn't get the job.
OMG Tip—Don't Jam Razors Down Your Pants: Let's be delicate here, and just file this one under "Crimes OMGs From NJ PDs does not recommend you try." (Official disclaimer: "OMGs from NJ PDs" does not endorse any crime at all, no matter how minor, or occasionally funny, and also thinks you should call your mom more often). Teaneck police arrested a 54-year-old Bogota man after store surveillance at a CVS allegedly caught him putting more than $100 worth of razors down his pants. The man was later spotted by police and identified by an employee of the CVS, authorities said; he was charged with shoplifting. Now to be clear, for all we know these were still packaged and comparatively safe. But you won't see OMG taking any chances with sharp objects in that area.
More than Words: It's hard to say just how sincere vandals were when they apologized for spray-painting a Toms River snack stand. After all, they wrote the apology in spraypaint, on the snack stand. Alongside a collection of other phrases and drawings is "Sorry about Your Door" in dripping black paint. Another message next to it states "No Vandlism" (the author jammed in the missing 'a' afterward). We're guessing the owners would have preferred if the remorse had come before, and not during, the act.
Timing is Everything: A Hopatcong man pleaded guilty April 20—or, rather, on 4/20—to growing more than 30 marijuana plants in his bedroom. And if you don't know why that's funny, your parents are to be commended for raising such a good boy or girl, but really, you've got to get caught up on your pop culture references.
Read This One With Your Pinky At the Side of Your Mouth: East Windsor police got a call from a PNC Bank for a report of a male attempting to cash a ... one ... million ... dollar fraudulent check. Officers showed up, identified their suspect, and seized the check with his name on it, police said. Officers also reportedly found a bag of pot on the would-be millionaire. We haven't priced it lately (we swear), but we imagine a cool million could buy a lot of weed.
Her Night Had Gone Down the Toilet Anyway: Maybe she already felt like she was in a mess of trouble, but Jefferson Township police say a woman they arrested after she allegedly caused a disturbance made things worse once she was put in a cell. Police say she tried to flood the cell by jamming toilet paper down its toilet bowl, and flushing over and over again. No word on whether she's retained a lawyer—or a plumber.
It's the Pot Calling the Kettle A Little Too Forthcoming: Normally, we add a little sass and casual tone in our write-ups of these OMGs. But the lead on this story from Wayne Patch does the job without any injection of attitude: "A passenger in a 'suspicious' vehicle reported parked in a driveway on Berdan Avenue early one morning told police he was there looking for a misplaced marijuana joint." For the record, police found no drugs at the scene; the driver was arrested on outstanding warrants and got a summons for allegedly operating a vehicle with a suspended license.
"You Must Pay the Rent!" "I Can't Pay The ... Wait, Is That Paint?" Toms River Police said a man believed to have robbed a convenience store earlier in January returned to rob again Jan. 22. The second time, he reportedly had a clever disguise—a painted-on mustache. But witnesses saw through the ploy, police said, and identified the man as the same robber from earlier incidents. No word on whether the same witnesses have also noticed Clark Kent looks suspiciously like Superman with a pair of glasses and a missing spit curl, or that Jack Tripper bears a strong family resemblance to his brother, Austin.
D'oh, A Deer! East Windsor police said they got reports of gunshots, and eventually found the man a witness said got into a pickup truck after leaving the area. In the truck were three freshly killed deer and one deer head, as well as a shotgun ... but the main maintained he hadn't been hunting, police said. He was "dressed in heavy outdoor clothing and boots with fresh blood on his pants,” yet denied he'd been hunting, and told officers the truck and gun weren't his, police said. Maybe it's just us, but when we see a guy covered in blood with a shotgun in on him, we hope he's been hunting. Seems like the best of all possible options.
Try to Say "Bear Spotted at Berliss Bearing" Three Times Fast: That was the headline in Livingston Patch, for its story about a black bear that showed up, seemingly confused and scared, in the bearing company's parking lot. Employees there may know a lot about bearings, but perhaps not so much about bears. “I tried to stare him down like Davey Crockett but it didn’t work. So I got in my car and drove off,” one told Patch.
If At First You Don't Succeed: Toms River police say a bank robber didn't like to travel much. He allegedly entered a Provident Bank, but left after a bank employee asked him to remove his hat. Then, police say, he headed a Sovereign bank across the street ... just as the Provident employees on the other side of the road were reporting a suspicious person to Toms River dispatchers. Police say the robber handed a note to a Sovereign teller that secured him the $600 in her drawer, and an arrest not long after.
There are Easier Ways to Get into a Woman's Hotel Room: From a story earlier this year in Toms River Patch: "Toms River Police are investigating how or why a car entered the Holiday Inn at 290 Route 37 early Sunday morning." (We're guessing pressure to the gas pedal had something to do with it.) Police said a 19-year-old staying at the hotel after a prom was sitting in a parked 1999 Mercedes Benz, then crashed it through a window into a room where a 77-year-old woman was sleeping. The hotel's occupant had apparently been in town to attend a wedding. Gives a whole new meaning to "wedding crashers."
False Alarm, Truly Freaked Out: If a Woodbridge man did everything police say he did, he was just asking to get in trouble. According to East Windsor police, the man first caught their attention when he called 911 to say a large building was going to be destroyed—a bogus claim. He was quickly identified and arrested, police said.
But after he was released, the alleged incidents got a little more outlandish. The next was at a bank. According to Marc LeMieux, director of major crimes at the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office: “He said, ‘Nobody move,’ so everyone looks at him, everyone stops. Somebody starts to move and he says, ‘I said, nobody move.’ Then he walks up to the counter and he basically just tells the woman at counter, 'Here's a $50 bill. Can you make change for me?’”
And then, the man allegedly told a group of young girls outside he had a gun. Police say he didn't have a weapon on him during either incident (but he did have one in his car). He was ultimately charged with creating a false public alarm and making terroristic threats.
Buildings in East Windsor are still standing.
Baby, You Can't Drive My Car: Lawyers will tell you there are lots of ways to get out of traffic tickets. Driving off with the officer's car isn't one of them. But Hunterdon County authorities say that's exactly what one man did when his car was stopped near Route 78 (it's not quite clear how he got control of the cop car). The chase proceeded onto Route 287, reaching speeds exceeding 100 mph, police said. It ultimately ended, police said, when the man drove the patrol car off Route 287 into the median, slowing the vehicle—but then tried to start the car up once again, and was stopped when an officer fired shots that disabled the vehicle.
Not the Way To Get a Better Answer: In this corner, a man upset about the alleged illegal use of a Dumpster. In the opposite corner, police with pepper spray. How do you think this particular match is going to go down? Kinnelon police say when they responded to a report of an illegal dumping but couldn't satisfy the concerns of the person making the complaint, he got agitated. He tore off his shirt, police said. He threw a cell phone at a cop and challenged the officer to a fight, police said. He also found out why that's a bad idea.
Don't Lie to the Cops, Or The Wife. Police say one man did both, but not very well. So, which is more punishing—the law or a scorned spouse? Springfield police say one man was betting on the latter, when he allegedly lied to them about being robbed. It turns out, police say, the man had been at a go-go bar in Newark, and got lost driving home, eventually winding up in Springfield. When his wife became worried he was late, she kept calling him, and he eventually told her he'd just been robbed at gunpoint—rather than admit he was at the go-go bar, police said. But things got a little more complicated when the wife offered to call 911 for the man, police said. He instead told her he'd do it ... and then did.
Is that a Needle Down Your Pants, Or ... A 28-year-old Ogdensburg man was arrested after, police said, they found 47 decks of heroin and a hypodermic needle in the crotch of his pants. We're going to limit the commentary on this one to: Ouch! Ouch! Yowza! Ouch!
Just Can't Bear the Heat: You think you've were hot and uncomfortable this past summer? Just be glad you're not covered with fur. The heat got to be too much to bear for one, well, bear, as a Dana Strus of North Caldwell learned. She looked out her window and saw a black bear in her yard splashing around in her pool. The mother of one (with another on the way) did what one does in 2011 when something odd happens—she stepped out onto the patio to photograph and video her new friend Fozzie (and, lucky us, she was kind enough to share the video with Patch). We can only imagine that 20 minutes later, the bear's friends were tagging him and leaving snarky comments on Facebook ("Hey, buddy, there aren't any pic-a-nic baskets in the water!").
You Have Chosen ... Poorly: You've got to pick your friends carefully. Police say a Brick man and a South Amboy woman who'd been drinking knew they probably wouldn't be able to satisfy the breath test required by a court-ordered ignition interlock on the man's car (if the driver's blood-alcohol level registers as being too high, the lock won't let the car start). So the pair asked someone else if he could blow into device. Only one problem. "[The woman] didn't realize [the man they asked] was a police officer, and explained to him that they had been drinking," a Brick detective said.
Named A Suspect: In The Cops say this crime had Andrea Bove's name written all over it. No, really. They literally mean his name was written down on the evidence. While patrolling the old Essex County Hospital Center on Fairview Avenue in Cedar Grove, officers noticed an open door and investigated further, police said. Working with the Essex County Sheriff's Department, they found two lengths of freshly cut copper pipe, and a bucket of tools nearby, police said. As police prepared to search the rest of the building, the suspects emerged from a nearby wooded area. When questioned, police say, both men voluntarily admitted to removing the copper pipes.
They might have run into some trouble denying it. A hacksaw in the bucket was inscribed with "A. Bove" in black magic marker, police said. We can understand why Bove would have labeled the hacksaw. After all, he wouldn't want someone else taking something that belongs to him.
If You Like it Then You Should Have Put an Egg On It. That is the lyric, right? No? Then what on earth was this guy thinking? South Brunswick police say things went a little rotten when a ... let's call him an enthusiastic fan... just wouldn't stay away from a mobile home park where Beyonce was shooting a new music video.
The man was first asked to leave the set of the video by the mobile home community's staff after he was yelling and acting out, police said. They said he appeared intoxicated, but friends agreed to drive him home. "At first he was yelling that he wanted to be in the video and shouted that he was a better dancer," South Brunswick Police spokesman Sgt. Jim Ryan said.
But the man came back a few hours later ... and was promptly driven home by officers—about a 5-mile drive, police said. So it might have been a surprise when a few hours after that, the man was spotted on site once again—this time right after he threw an egg on an officer working the detail, police said. The man allegedly took off running, but was tackled by an officer.
Oh oh oh, oh oh oh ...
Take the Money and Run, to Police: There's an old truism about living a life of crime—it makes it harder to go to the police when you need help. According to Toms River police, a man and woman learned that the hard way when they showed up at police headquarters to say they were being followed. The problem is, the follower showed up—and told officers he'd been trying to buy pot from the pair (though they wanted to sell him cocaine, he said), but the pair took his $100 and ran, police said. Officers investigated further and found the two who'd been seeking help were wanted on warrants—one for $10,000. Police say that as though that wasn't bad enough, they searched the pair's car and found drugs and paraphernalia. "I don't think we ever recovered the $100 bill," Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy said.
Oh, Give it a Rest: Need a subtle clue as to who committed burglary? A burglar laying around might tip you off South Brunswick police say that's what they found, when they interrupted a burglary at a restaurant. Three men took off running, and two were found within the hour, police said. But the third evaded capture until officers were walking through the building ... and heard snoring, police said. The third man had fallen asleep while hiding on top of a refrigeration unit in the restaurant's basement, police said.
In And Out of Court, Part 1: Gloucester Township police arrested a Runnemede man who just might like the inside of a courthouse a bit too much. He'd just the township's municipal court, police said, when he walked across the street to a gas station and stole an employee's bicycle. That's just how he rolls. In and Out of Court, Part 2: Bike robbery must be too small-time for the justice system's frequent flyers in northern New Jersey. Morristown police said the same week that they nabbed a man who, immediately after leaving court to face charges of credit card theft and burglary, tried to break into a home. Police say the man was seen mid-day trying to climb in to a window.
Got to Pick a Better Fake Name: Hopatcong police said they pulled over a driver who lied about his identity, but when Hopatcong dispatch ran the fake name they were given, they found a man with that name had an active arrest warrant in Hardyston. It wasn't until the driver was cuffed that they learned the truth, when they saw a wallet in the car, and found the driver's actual license (with his actual name) in it, police said. The explanation? The driver told the officer he gave the wrong name because he had been caught driving with a suspended license seven times, and didn't want another ticket, police said.
Happy Birthday! We Got You a Burglar: One woman got a very special birthday gift—a friend and neighbor willing to risk her safety to help. Mary Ann Zalenski of Haddonfield discovered a burglar leaving her home on Zalenski's 53rd birthday, she said. She screamed for her neighbor, Angelica Jeffreys to help, and when the robber "took off like a rabbit," Jeffreys went after her, the two women said. Zalenski herself and police soon joined into the chase, they said. Officers eventually found the alleged robber several hours later, police said. “I laid awake last night thinking about it,” said Jeffreys, 46, a marketing advertising professional, who works from home. “To be honest with you, if she had turned and come back at me I don’t know what I would have done, but it never occurred to me that was going to happen. I jus
Nothing to Smile About: No one likes going to the dentist. But you'd probably like it even less if while you were there, someone tried to burn down the office. Bloomfield police say a man tried that, pouring a flammable liquid on the floor, because he was upset about dental work from five years before. Clearly, he didn't know he could just leave a review on the Bloomfield Patch places page (we've got one for businesses in every Patch-covered area), which we're sure would have gotten his point across just as effectively.
Rock Beats Scissor, Hammer Beats Knife: Bloomfield police say a man brandishing a hammer entered The Happy Ming Restaurant and told employees to open the cash register. When an employee grabbed a nearby knife, the man fled out of the restaurant empty-handed, police said. Did he not know they have knives at restaurants? Next, he'll try to rob the gun shop with a spitball and a straw.
Maybe You Can Believe Everything You Read: Ever see one of those upside-down bumper stickers that says "If You Can Read This, Flip Me Over?" Ever see one on a car that was actually overtuned? Thanks to Toms River Patch, now you have.
Do a Little Dance, Steal a Little Dress, Get Caught Tonight: Gloucester Township Police say they've captured the shoplifter who became a YouTube sensation when security cameras recorded him boogieing his way through a five-finger discount. Several people contacted police to say they recognized the man seen in the video, posted both on YouTube and the police department's social media page. OMG Crime Tip of the Week: If you're aiming for a crime that relies on subtlety, try to be less interesting to watch than the Numa Numa guy.
The Idea Sounded Half-Baked, But ... The Ridgewood Fire Department got a little creative when attending to a fuel spill from a bucket loader truck. The truck's fuel tank had suffered a rip, and fuel was gushing out. But a donation from a nearby homeowner gave firefighters what they needed to get things under control. "We used a potato on the nipple of the fuel tank as a plug," captain from the department said. You say "potato," we say "good thinking."
We've All Been There: Though most of us handled it a little better. Morristown police arrested an allegedly drunk driver who they say first caught their attention by swerving toward a pedestrian. "I wasn't going to hit him. It's just my biggest pet peeve when people cross in front of my car with(out) using a crosswalk," the driver allegedly told police.
Here's Hoping the Next 7 Go Better: Andy Warhol said everyone gets 15 minutes of fame—but unfortunately for one Westville woman, the first eight haven't been so great. The woman's been identified as the aggressor in a video that went viral on the YouTube channel "Train Fights." In the sometimes-obscenity-laced beat down, she's is shown slapping, punching and kicking her boyfriend, before eventually getting arrested and cuffed by police outside the train. "You are the reason why every guy on earth is a scumbag," she tells her boyfriend. Ouch.
Stand by Your Woman, Sober: If you're a devoted husband, and your wife is in trouble, you likely don't hesitate at all to run to her side. But if she's in trouble for alleged drunk driving, and you're pretty sloshed, and the only way you have of getting to her side (which, like the rest of her, is at police HQ) is to drive ... well, hesitate. Wyckoff police say a husband might have been better off taking a nap before trying to help. Ultimately, both husband and wife were released to a decidedly more sober friend, police said.
Burned: A call to Kinnelon police by a homeowner complaining of a strange, possibly burning, odor resulted in the same woman’s arrest after authorities found a glass pipe packed with marijuana in her nightstand, police said. Firefighters even used an infrared camera to locate the possible fire—which led them to the alleged pot.