LODI, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Lodi High School teacher and track coach has pleaded not guilty to several charges stemming from what authorities say was an alcohol-related crash that critically injured a Bergen County Police Department officer.
Michael Ettz entered his pleas during a court hearing Tuesday in Hackensack.
County prosecutors say the officer, 39-year-old Daniel Breslin, was assisting another officer when the crash occurred early Saturday on Route 46 westbound in Lodi. Breslin had pulled his cruiser alongside the other officer’s car shortly before the cruiser was rear-ended by Ettz’s vehicle.
The officer suffered a significant head injury and underwent surgery for a skull fracture and bleeding. Authorities said Ettz fled the scene, but was soon found in the backyard of a nearby home and arrested. He was treated for minor injuries
The 36-year-old Lodi man remains free on $150,000 bail. He faces numerous counts, including aggravated assault and leaving the scene of an accident.
As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, the arraignment was supposed to take place in municipal court in Lodi but was moved to superior court in Hackensack.
A grim-looking Michael Ettz said little during his court appearance but answered yes to a series of questions, Haskell reported.
Ettz faces numerous counts, including DWI, aggravated assault and leaving the scene of an accident with serious bodily injury.
“As we move along, we’ll make our determinations of what things we need to do in Michael’s defense as we look at this case,” defense attorney Brian Neary said.
Ettz remains free after posting $150,000 bail Saturday.
He reportedly has a previous DWI conviction that led to his license being suspended, Haskell reported.
Many students at Lodi High School said Monday they were shocked by the allegations against their teacher.
“I was shocked to hear it because he didn’t strike me as somebody who would do something like this,” said student Joseph Lafranca.
“He’s a very great person, very outgoing, caring and would do anything for anybody in need,” student Lebria Breks said.
Ettz has been suspended from teaching as his case plays out, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported.
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