UNION, NJ – The man who died in what began as a shoplifting incident on Sunday afternoon has not yet been identified.
According to Acting Union County Prosecutor Thomas K. Isenhour, the incident in which the suspected shoplifter led police on a vehicle pursuit before crashing into a building, killing him, is still under investigation.
At just before 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, a store manager at the Target on Springfield Avenue in the Vauxhall section of Union alerted two uniformed Union police officers working an off-duty assignment there that a man appeared to be attempting to shoplift several hundred dollars’ worth of over-the-counter medicine, according to the preliminary investigation being led by the Prosecutor’s Office.
When the officers approached the suspect and attempted to arrest him in the store’s parking lot, the man attempted to assault one of the officers by trying to bite him, then the suspect entered a parked Jaguar sedan and sped away, the investigation indicated.
After leading police on a brief pursuit into neighboring Springfield, the suspect failed to negotiate a turn, lost control of his vehicle, and crashed into a multi-story commercial building on Springfield Avenue. The overturned vehicle subsequently caught fire, and three police officers who arrived at the scene tried unsuccessfully to rescue the trapped driver.
Those three officers were transported to Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston for treatment for smoke inhalation, and the suspect driver was pronounced dead at the scene. It was later determined that the Jaguar he had been driving had been reported stolen out of Irvington approximately one week prior.
The building was closed at the time of the incident, and no other injuries were reported.
This matter remains under an active investigation being assisted by the Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, the Union County Police Department Fatal Accident Reconstruction Team, and the Union Township Police Department. Anyone with information is being urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Sgt. Michael Manochio at 908-966-2287.