FAIRFIELD, NJ — In addition to launching an investigation on Friday following a series of vehicle burglaries and attempts, the Fairfield Police Department (FPD) has also mad several arrests over the last month, including two individual arrests for driving under the influence (DUI), the arrest of a shoplifter who assaulted a responding officer and more.
Investigation Into String of Vehicle Burglaries
Fairfield officers are investigating a series of vehicle burglaries and attempts that they believe occurred during the early morning hours of Jan. 24 on Glenroy Road South, Shaw Court, Francavilla Drive, Phillip Court and John Street.
At approximately 1:38 a.m. on Friday, officers responded to a residence on John Street in response to a resident who reported a suspicious incident that was captured on his Ring camera.
When Officer James Ciampi responded to investigate, the homeowner informed him that a small gray SUV was observed on the street in front of the residence about an hour earlier. According to police, a black male wearing tan colored pants and a blue sweatshirt can be seen on the video exiting the front passenger door of the SUV. The male then runs up the driveway and tries to open the doors to all the cars parked in the driveway.
According to police, the suspect realizes that all of the vehicles in the driveway are locked, re-enters the gray SUV and quickly drives away.
While the officer was gathering this information, he observed a 2019 gray Toyota Rav 4 bearing New Jersey license plate R80-LHZ passing his location. According to police, the officer noticed that the vehicle was occupied by two black males, and the resident identified it as the same vehicle seen on the Ring camera earlier. Officer Ciampi then followed the vehicle as it turned onto Sand Road.
A check of the vehicle revealed that the vehicle has been reported stolen from Bloomfield, according to police. Ciampi and other Fairfield officers attempted to stop the vehicle until it sped onto Route 80, at which point a pursuit was initiated. According to police, the officers discontinued the pursuit based upon the risk being created to the public as the vehicle entered onto Route 46 East. Ultimately, the vehicle escaped apprehension.
The FPD continues to warn its residents to lock their car doors every night and to make sure that all valued items, keys and key fobs are removed. Residents are also urged to contact police immediately when observing any suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.
DUI Listed Among Various Charges for Two Individuals Arrested in Fairfield
A report of a stolen vehicle recently led to the arrest of Emma Nelson, 41, of Pequannock, for DUI and other charges, including refusal to submit to breath testing, careless driving and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.
Police received a call from a female located in the lobby of the Doubletree Hotel to report that her blue 2018 Honda Pilot was missing and was last seen in the hotel parking lot. Officer James High and Nicholas Cocchi could not initially locate the caller upon arrival, but heard from witnesses that there was “a disoriented woman” in the parking lot looking for a car.
As the officers checked the parking lot, High observed a female matching the description that the witnesses provided who was driving a blue Honda Pilot across several parking stalls. When the officer activated his emergency lights, the vehicle continued through the parking lot and entered onto Route 46 East using the entranceway into the hotel rather than the exit driveway, according to police. She eventually pulled over near the Willowbrook Mall.
The officer identified Nelson as both the driver and the caller who had initially reported her vehicle missing. During this contact with Nelson, the officer said she displayed signs and symptoms consistent with someone under the influence, including the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her breath, slurred speech, bloodshot and watery eyes and the inability to find her driver’s license after fumbling through documents.
Following field-sobriety testing, Nelson was arrested and transported to police headquarters for breath testing. According to police, she refused to provide sufficient samples of her breath needed for testing. She was released on her own recognizance pending court action.
A 34-year-old Fairfield resident was charged with DUI, possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) and six other motor vehicle summonses earlier this month after another driver called police to report a vehicle that was driving erratically on Route 46.
Officers James Ciampi and Nicholas Cocchi responded to the area of the Hampton Inn, where they observed the suspect vehicle as well as the caller, who was following closely behind the erratic driver with hazards flashing.
The officers initiated a traffic stop and identified the driver as Anthony Meoli, who displayed signs and symptoms consistent with someone being under the influence, include slow speech and pinpoint pupils in the dark, according to police. Responding officers also stated that Meoli appeared to be focusing on his conversation and forgot to give his credentials to the officer.
Based upon the totality of the circumstances following a field-sobriety test, Meoli was placed under arrest and transported to headquarters. According to police, officers found 12 folds of suspected heroin in Meoli’s sock, and the results of breath testing were negative.
At this point, Officer Caniano of the West Caldwell Police Department, a certified drug recognition expert, was called in to evaluate Meoli’s condition.
He was released on his own recognizance pending court action.
Ex-Employee Arrested for Stealing from Former Employer
James Romero, 37, of Lodi, was recently arrested for burglary and theft at Excalibur Equipment at 285 Eldridge Road, where he had previously worked.
According to police, the company had experienced two prior thefts of cash from a cash box located in one of the offices, with the most recent occurring on Dec. 18, 2019. As a result of these crimes, the company installed surveillance cameras.
On Jan. 10, the surveillance camera captured Romero, who was dismissed from employment in June or July 2019, using a key to enter the facility and steal $100 in cash. According to police, the video showed Romero leaving the facility and locking the door behind.
Romero surrendered to Det. Sgt. Michael Nyhuis and Det. David Lagan on Jan. 16 and was formally charged with one count each of burglary and theft. He was released on his own recognizance pending court action.
Motor Vehicle Stop Leads to Drug Arrest
A motor vehicle stop recently led to the arrest of Zachary Parrinello, 28, of Wayne, for possession of less than 50 grams marijuana that was contained in a backpack searched during the stop.
Officer James Ciampi was monitoring traffic in the parking lot of the WaWa convenience store when he observed a vehicle with tinted windows and a tinted license plate cover pull onto Passaic Avenue and then onto Route 46 East.
In speaking with the drive during the stop, the officer smelled raw marijuana coming from within the vehicle. Further investigation revealed the discovery of a plastic bag containing suspected marijuana that was contained in a backpack belonging to Parrinello, according to police.
He was arrested and transported to headquarters for processing, and was eventually released on his own recognizance pending court action.
Shoplifter Arrested Following Assault on Police Officer
Afamefuna Nwandu, 33, of Mount Vernon, NY, was arrested in Fairfield in late December for aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and shoplifting following a shoplifting report from the Target store located on Route 46 East.
Fairfield officers responded to assist the asset protection officers, who were attempting to detain an uncooperative shoplifter. According to the Target security officers, Nwandu attempted to push out a shopping cart containing $664 worth of merchandise without paying for it.
As the first responding officer arrived, Nwandu retreated back into the store and ran toward the rear of the building, exiting through an emergency door, according to police.
At this same time, Officer Michael Tilton pulled up and observed Nwandu. As the officer opened his door and attempted to exit his police car to confront Nwandu, the suspect pushed closed the car door on Officer Tilton’s leg, according to police. The officer was unsuccessful at apprehending the suspect who then fled on foot across Route 46 toward Two Bridges Road.
An extensive search for the suspect was conducted using the FPD’s drone and with the assistance of area police departments as well as the New Jersey State Police, but the suspect could not be found.
According to police, Fairfield detectives then conducted a follow-up investigation that resulted in the discovery of the suspect’s car in the parking lot of the store, and the suspect was ultimately identified as Nwandu.
Using other investigative techniques, an additional search of the area was undertaken and led to Nwandu’s apprehension as he walked in the parking lot of the Willowbrook Mall. He was then taken into custody without further incident, according to police.
After being processed, Nwandu was transported to the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark pending court action.
According to the FPD, the extent of the officer’s injury was minimal.