A South Brunswick Police officer was injured early Tuesday morning after his car was struck by an alleged intoxicated driver.
Patrolman First Class Angelo Zecca suffered contusions and bruising, in addition to a sprained ankle and whiplash, after his patrol car was struck on Route 27 shortly after midnight.
At 12:04 a.m., Zecca was headed north on Route 27 near Vilet Drive when his patrol car was struck in the rear by a 2008 Saturn, which sent Zecca's vehicle off the highway. Police said the Saturn was traveling at a high rate of speed when it struck the patrol car, which forced the vehicle across the southbound lanes of the highway into the traffic light stanchion.
Following the collision, Zecca's patrol car rotated 180 degrees and came to a rest just off the roadway, as both side airbags deployed on the patrol car. Police said the driver of the Saturn, Joseph Menedes, 24, of Phillipsburg, exited his vehicle and was bleeding as he allegedly attempted to walk away from the scene of the accident.
However, Zecca was able to free himself from the patrol car to catch Mendes, according to police. Officers also recovered a small amount of marijuana at the location where Zecca had detained Mendes, police said.
Both Zecca and Mendes were transported to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where Zecca was treated and released. Mendes was given treatment for his injuries before being released into police custody.
He was charged with assault by auto, driving while intoxicated, possession of under 50 grams of marijuana, possession of a controlled dangerous substance in a motor vehicle, possession of an open alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle, reckless driving and additional motor vehicle offenses. Mendes posted $250 bail and was released.
“Officer Zecca was saved from serious injuries because he was wearing his seat belt and the airbags in the patrol car deployed," said Chief Raymond Hayducka. "The suspect was traveling at a high rate of speed and intoxicated. We are thankful the officer and no one in the general public was seriously injured or killed by this driver.”