TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey police officer headed home after his shift ended was killed early Thursday when an alleged drunken driver crashed into his vehicle on the Garden State Parkway.
Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford said 32-year-old Jason Marles, who had served on the Ocean Gate force for nine years, was northbound when his Jeep Cherokee was struck from behind around 3:20 a.m., near milepost 83.3 in Toms River.
The collision forced Marles’ vehicle to spin and then strike a guardrail on the right berm and overturn. It finally came to rest on its roof against a tree and burst into flames.
Marles, the married father of two young children, was pronounced dead at the scene. He had finished his shift at 3 a.m. and was still in uniform as he drove home.
Ford said the other driver, 31-year-old Erick P. Uzcategui of Manchester Township, was charged with drunken driving. It was not immediately known if he had retained an attorney, and a telephone listing for him could not be located Thursday afternoon.
Since the crash occurred on the parkway, the New Jersey State Police will lead the investigation, and authorities say more charges may be filed.
Sgt. Julian Castellanos, a state police spokesman, said Uzcategui’s vehicle — a 2010 BMW X7 — careened off of the center divider after the crash and came to a stop on the right berm north of Marles’ vehicle.
Several occupants of the BMW then fled the scene and were later captured by state troopers and Toms River police officers, Castellanos said. The identities of those arrested were not immediately released, and it was not known if they would face charges in the incident.
Ocean Gate police chief Reece Fisher was scheduled to hold a 1:30 p.m. news conference to discuss the crash and Marles’ death.
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