Clinton Township Police Officer Joseph SanGiovanni knew something was wrong during his drunk driving patrol last year when he spotted a Chevrolet Trailblazer with a headlight off, changing lane and rapidly approaching him as he traveled at approximately 65 mph.
SanGiovanni activated his hazard lights, but the vehicle did not stop for about a mile before coming to a stop on Interstate 78 west of Exit 15.
“It makes us go higher because usually someone stops in about 10 to 20 seconds if they can for sure. It definitely made me think something could happen here,” SanGiovanni said.
His instincts and training were good. SanGiovanni, who was joined on the scene Sept. 3, 2021 by Sgt. Andrew McCluskey and Officer Brian Dickson, who had his K-9 partner Uzza in the vehicle, found the man in the vehicle did not match the photo on his driver’s license, the vehicle was not registered, the man was armed with a gun that had been used in a New York shooting two months earlier, and he had been trying to flee from police.
To safely secure the man and loaded gun without anyone being harmed, McCluskey, SanGiovanni and Dickson are among 24 first responders and citizens who will be honored May 11 by the Hunterdon County 200 Club at a a 7 p.m. dinner at Razberry’s, 834 Route 12, French Quarter. The three Clinton Township officers will receive a meritorious service award from the organization, the third time SanGiovanni has been recognized by the club and the second time for McCluskey.
“It’s an honor,” said SanGiovanni, who praised Clinton Township Police Chief Thomas DeRosa for his support of proactive policing. He added to him that the real significance is that a gun was recovered and removed from the street, preventing a small child from being injured by a stray bullet.
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Dickson, a 7-and-a-half-year police veteran, said he was not serving as a police officer for awards or recognition.
“But it’s good when other people recognize that we face very dangerous situations like that. The biggest problem is that nobody was injured that night. It would have very easily escaped us,” he said.
“With something like this, I think it’s good for the public in our city to know that bad people are visiting their city on a daily basis even though they have no idea they’re here,” McCluskey said, a Clinton Township police veteran of 14 years. mentioned. “People may think it’s sleepy and quiet here, but while they’re sleeping there are people, adult criminals, driving (on three major highways) near their backyards.”
“First responders protect and serve us. They are full of integrity and committed to protecting our community. The past few years have been some of the most difficult times. Uncertain times. Confusing times. first responders continue to act with certainty, safety and effectiveness. Let us reciprocate their commitment by helping them do their difficult work,” said Peter DeLoria, President of the Hunterdon County 200 Club, in the program of the event. .
Also featured are:
- Flemington Police Corporal. Paramedics Brian McNally and Patrolman Frank Emanuele will receive a Meritorious Service Award for resuscitating a cardiac arrest driver who crashed into another vehicle on September 19, 2019.
- Chris Colson and his fiancée Emily Kayal will receive vital awards for helping the owner of Oldwick Village Garage subdue a mentally ill man who assaulted him on May 19, 2019.
- Miguel Alves receives a lifesaving award and John Frechette a civilian award for assisting a 39-year-old woman who suffered sudden cardiac arrest on Route 31 in Clinton Town on January 9, 2020 and drove off the road.
- New Jersey State Trooper Ross Soares will receive a certificate of merit for 153 arrests in 2019, including 80 involving narcotics worth approximately $80,000 and 13 DWI arrests.
- New Jersey State Police Detective Sgt. Eric Clowes, Detective Sergeant. Mathew DiLillo and Detectives Bruce Sanderson and Adam England for their work leading to the arrests of two people involved in multiple armed robberies of gas stations in 2019.
- California Fire Chief Rich Bergmann for taking lifesaving action on a man who collapsed in his home in 2019.
- Deputy Chief of the Southern Branch Emergency Services Agencies Chris Miller, Lifesaving Society Lt. Walter Dorf Jr., boat operator Chip Milcarek and Lifesaving Society member Bailey Pyle for rescuing two men from the cold waters of Round Valley Reservoir after their boat capsized in January 2021.
- Ralph Barca, owner of Sorella’s Pizza and Pasta in Whitehouse Station, for helping a woman who was assaulted by a man in the restaurant in 2021.
- Marvic Danilo Arguetta Rodriguez, Daniel Calix and Franklin Calix for saving an elderly man from an apartment fire in Flemington.
- Off-duty firefighter Ewing Oscar Estrada for rescuing and performing CPR on an unconscious driver who crashed into the QuickChek fuel pumps on Route 31 in West Amwell.
“It developed very quickly”
SanGiovanni said the driver of the Trailblazer gave him title papers, but never gave him a temporary registration card that accompanies the license plate or other insurance information.
Based on the fact that the driver did not stop in an appropriate amount of time and the driver’s license did not match his face, San Giovanni felt that the driver was lying about some things and asked him to get out of the vehicle for further investigation.
Outside the vehicle, the driver appeared distracted and began walking through traffic around 9 p.m. Police asked for the driver’s consent to search the vehicle, which he initially granted, but later backed down after police began reviewing the form.
“While he’s doing this, he makes a lot of fidgeting, turns around and sits on the railing,” said SanGiovanni, who noticed a hard square edge under the man’s T-shirt.
Fearing it was a weapon, he told the driver they should pat him down for the safety of the officers, but the driver walked away.
“So we went to hold him back, and he walked away and as he was walking away he jumped over the railing. During that we brought him back and that’s where the Officer Dickson saw a nearby gun hit the ground,” SanGiovanni said.
“I heard the gun hit the concrete. It fell right below him, so I alerted all the other officers at the scene. I yelled ‘gun, gun, gun’, probably seven or eight times “Dickson said.
SanGiovanni, who was focused on the driver, only heard him say “gun” once.
Officers took control and handcuffed the driver after a struggle and Dickson recovered the handgun which was later identified as a Rock Island Armory M1911-A1 CS, .45 caliber with six hollow point cartridges which had been stolen in Reading, Pennsylvania in 2015 and was used in a shooting in New York in July 2021 in which one person was injured. Narcotics were found in the driver’s vehicle.
“It all happened in about two or three minutes. It developed very quickly,” SanGiovanni said.
Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, the courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.