UPDATE: A Leonia police officer ended a low-speed chase with a man who stole an Englewood Cliffs police cruiser yesterday by bumping the car with his, sending it onto the lawn of a Route 4 car dealership in Paramus.
Sereymanta Kong, 22, of Wallingford, CT (above) had just stuck his tongue out at a New Milford police officer before hitting his car and sending it into the westbound highway median, where it was struck by another borough cruiser.
That’s when Leonia Officer Erik Goodell “decided he had to do something immediately,” Leonia Police Chief Thomas Rowe told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
“This guy was either going to kill a cop or someone with kids in their car,” Rowe said.
With a side opening in traffic ahead, Goodell steered his Chevy Tahoe into the stolen police car, pushing it onto the lawn of the Paramus Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership.
Pursuing officers then quickly got Kong down and into handcuffs as he tried to run alongside the highway.
He remained held tonight (Monday) on $1 million bail at Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus in the custody of county sheriff’s officers.
Initial charges include assault on police, carjacking, resisting arrest and obstruction. More were expected.
Kong was attending the University of Connecticut last fall when police said he entered a classmate’s residence in violation of a restraining order.
Yesterday’s incident began just around 3:45 p.m. as a borough resident headed down Castle Drive in her Mercedes Benz with her two children — a boy, 11, and girl, 13 — on her way to take her son to a friend’s house, Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
Lying in the middle of the road was Kong.
He was holding a water bottle and appeared to be choking, the chief said.
The woman stopped about 10 feet away, grabbed her cellphone to call 911 and got out to see if he was OK, Cioffi said.
That’s when Kong suddenly “got up and ran toward the car,” he said.
Horrified, the woman tried racing him to the vehicle, screaming.
Her daughter, seeing the commotion, quickly got out.
But the boy was playing a video game, apparently unaware of what was happening.
The mother managed to get him out before Kong sped off in her car, Cioffi said.
Englewood Cliffs Officers Mark Krapels and Dan O’Shea chased Kong in separate cars up Sylvan Avenue to where it becomes 9W.
They were soon joined by officers from Alpine, Tenafly and the Palisades Interstate Parkway police.
Kong rammed both Englewood Cliffs officers’ cruisers before heading toward the Montammy Golf Club in Alpine, where O’Shea cut him off, Cioffi said.
Kong then threw the Mercedes into reverse, ramming the front of Krapels’ car, he said.
After getting out of the passenger side, Kong struggled with several officers before somehow falling into Krapels’ cruiser.
“He’s kicking and fighting with them and somehow puts the police car into reverse,” Cioffi said.
A nearly 15-mile, low-speed pursuit followed through several towns — including Bergenfield, Dumont, New Milford and River Edge — with various police departments joining in along the way.
At one point, witnesses said, Kong was wearing a police hat.
Rowe, the Leonia chief, was working a carnival in town when he heard the transmissions.
Mindful that several main arteries go through Leonia, he sent patrol units to contiguous towns.
Goodell was waiting at the corner of Teaneck Road when Kong came past, as the chase continued onto westbound Route 4.
A few miles later, Goodell took control.
Krapels was briefly hospitalized but was back at work this morning to work with junior police academy cadets, Cioffi, the Englewood Cliffs police chief, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
O’Shea went to the hospital this morning after his ankle swelled overnight, he said.
New Milford Police Sgt. Nicholas DiGenio, whose car was struck on Route 4, sustained a minor wrist injury.
PIP Officer David Moscaritolo checked out fine after being bitten by Kong.
The carjacking victim, meanwhile, was OK after being hospitalized for stress.
“She went from being worried about a man lying in the street who needed help to almost seeing her kids taken in her car,” Cioffi said.
Rowe, meanwhile, said he was proud of Goodell — the cousin of Waldwick Police Officer Christopher Goodell, who was killed when his police car was struck by a tractor-trailer on Route 17 last July.
“You can kill someone att 30 to 35 miles an hour if you broadside them or hit them at an angle,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “Plus, we didn’t know if the police car still had a weapon inside.
“Officer Goodell’s actions were exceptional, outstanding, phenomenal,” Rowe said. “He did what needed to be done. And everyone came home OK.
“Thank God nobody got seriously hurt or injured. The potential was certainly there for it.”
Top: PHOTO by SAMMY NATAL / MUGSHOT Courtesy BERGEN COUNTY SHERIFF