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AG Platkin: Four Arrested After Stolen Vehicle Hits Officers, Crashes into Homeland Security Agent’s Car While Attempting to Elude Police in Newark

NEWARK — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced that four defendants were arrested and charged after they tried to flee from law enforcement in a stolen vehicle in Newark, resulting in several collisions as well as injuries to three officers and one of the suspects.

The driver of the stolen vehicle, identified as Isaiah Griffin, 19, of Newark, along with his three passengers — Muhammad Lopez, 22, and Zanier Riley, 19, both of Newark, and a 15-year-old juvenile — have been charged following an eluding attempt on Thursday, June 22, in a stolen 2021 BMW X6.

“These defendants allegedly engaged in high-risk, criminal conduct, bringing this eluding incident to an end that left several individuals, including law enforcement officers, injured,” said Attorney General Platkin. “We are committed to bringing to justice those who engage in auto thefts and who thereby carelessly endanger our communities and our officers.”

“In a state with the population density and traffic volumes that New Jersey has, situations like this are extraordinarily dangerous,” said Derek Nececkas, Acting Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will not tolerate defendants looking to make easy money driving our streets with reckless abandon, putting New Jersey residents’ lives at risk for personal gain.”

“Our troopers and law enforcement officers exhibit bravery on a daily basis by putting their lives on the line to keep the residents of our state safe,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Auto theft victimizes and endangers our communities, and we will continue our fight to combat these crimes. I trust these defendants will be brought to justice.”

The vehicle was reported stolen by police in Cedar Grove, in Essex County, at about 7:30 a.m. Thursday, June 22. Through an investigation the BMW was tracked to Newark, where members of the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force (ATTF) spotted the vehicle in the area of North 6th Street and monitored it as it traveled around the city and eventually entered a parking garage, on Mount Prospect Avenue between Delavan Avenue and Ballantine Parkway. Detectives followed the vehicle and confronted the occupants on the upper level of the garage, stepping out of their police vehicles and ordering the suspects out of the BMW.

It is alleged that the driver of the stolen SUV instead accelerated toward an officer and stopped. Officers then tried to extract the driver, later identified as Griffin, by opening the rear driver side door. The driver allegedly responded by putting the BMW in reverse and accelerating backwards, but the SUV stalled as police continued to order the suspects to get out. Those commands were allegedly ignored, as the driver put the vehicle in drive and hit two officers while fleeing the garage.

The stolen vehicle sped away and drove through several side streets in Newark as police responded, until the BMW got into a head-on collision with a federal government-owned Department of Homeland Security vehicle being operated by an on-duty Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Supervisory Special Agent (SSA). The SSA was transported by ambulance to University Hospital in Newark for evaluation and testing. He was later released and is doing well.

The BMW subsequently hit a fence of a business on Meeker Avenue at the intersection with Empire Street. All four occupants bailed out and took off on foot but were all apprehended after foot pursuits and field searches.

One of the suspects, the juvenile whose name is not being released, was struck by an unmarked police vehicle while fleeing the scene on foot. He was taken to University Hospital in Newark with a broken leg.

The facts behind this alleged eluding incident, involving injuries to a federal agent, and information related to the subjects have been provided to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey, for review and potential charging purposes.

“HSI is working closely with our State and Local partners to pursue those individuals involved in motor vehicle thefts and bring them to justice,” said HSI Newark Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel. “The actions leading up to the arrests show the dangers our law enforcement personnel face while trying to apprehend those who look to flee in stolen vehicles.”

The adult defendants are charged as follows:

Isaiah Griffin, 19, of Newark
Aggravated Assault While Eluding Police — 2nd degree (three counts)
Aggravated Assault— 2nd degree (two counts)
Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer (two counts)
Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose — 3rd degree
Possession of a Weapon — 4th degree
Theft — 3rd degree
Eluding — 3rd degree
Conspiracy with a Juvenile to Commit a Criminal Offense — 2nd degree
Resisting Arrest — 4th degree

Muhammad Lopez, 22, of Newark, and Zanier Riley, 19, of Newark
Theft — 3rd degree
Conspiracy with a Juvenile to Commit a Criminal Offense — 2nd degree
Receiving Stolen Property — 3rd degree
Resisting Arrest — 4th degree

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Deputy Attorney General Joseph Giordano, Chief of the DCJ ATTF Unit, is prosecuting the case under the supervision of Deputy Director Erik Daab and Acting DCJ Director Derek Nececkas. The investigation was carried out by NJSP Motor Vehicle Crimes North Unit, as part of the NJSP Auto Theft Task Force, with assistance from the Cedar Grove and Newark Police Departments.