N.J. officer shoots man who tried to run him over

By Sharon Adarlo

NEWARK, N.J. — A Hoboken man fleeing police died yesterday, authorities said, after he was shot in the head by a Belleville officer he had just hit with his car.

Edwin Munoz, 22, died yesterday afternoon following a car chase that began in Belleville and ended in Newark, said Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office. A passenger in the car, Japhet Lopez, 25, of Newark, was uninjured and later was charged with attempted burglary, eluding police and resisting arrest.

A second passenger in the 1992 Toyota Camry Munoz was driving ran away and remains at large, Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow said.

Officer Robert Kane, 42, was hospitalized, but was released several hours later, township Police Chief Joseph Rotonda said.

Kane's partner, eight-year veteran Glenn Zadroga, 38, injured his hand during the chase but was treated at the scene, Rotonda said.

Dow said the chase started at 2:10 a.m. when the patrolling Belleville officers saw a man trying to break into a car on Franklin Street.

She said when the suspect realized he had been spotted, he got into the Camry, which then sped off.

Kane and Zadroga turned on their lights and siren and chased the Camry, Dow said. During the chase, a person exited the Camry and got away.

The officers pursued the Camry to Lincoln Avenue and Herbert Place in Newark, Detective Todd McClendon of the Newark police said.

The car then made a U-turn on Herbert Place, a dead-end street, and drove toward the officers, who by then had gotten out of their cruiser, Rotonda said.

With the car lurching toward him, Kane, slightly crouched behind the driver-side door, drew his gun and fired upon the Camry when it hit him, Loriquet said.

After Munoz was struck, front-seat passenger Lopez took over driving the car but hit a tree at Broad and Clay streets, Dow said.

She said officers chased down Lopez and arrested him.

Munoz was taken to University Hospital in Newark, where he died late yesterday afternoon, Loriquet said.

Kane was taken to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, where he was treated for injuries to his shoulder, arm and lower leg, Rotonda said. He was later released.

Dow said her office's professional standards unit is conducting an investigation, as is standard procedure in police-involved shootings.

"The matter will be presented to a grand jury," Dow said.

Kane's attorney, Anthony J. Iacullo of Nutley, said Kane and Zadroga acted properly.

"Officer Kane responded in order to save his life," Iacullo said.

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