Innocent dad killed in police pursuit crash on Route 9 in Old Bridge, NJ
OLD BRIDGE — It was a devastating end to a night out for a family after they crossed paths with suspected car thieves fleeing police early Wednesday morning.
The vehicle carrying Arturo Tlapa Luna, 33, of Freehold, and his family was heading south on Route 9 around 2:15 a.m. when it was struck at the Spring Valley Road intersection in Old Bridge, according to Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone.
Luna was pronounced dead at the scene while his wife, two children and father were hospitalized.
"Arturo was a kind, generous, and loyal husband, father, brother, son, coworker, and friend. He was so loved and deeply respected by his community. We have lost an amazing human being," according to a GoFundMe page created to assist his family.
He worked at the Pizza and Pasta Factory on Route 79 in Marlboro.
"It is with the heaviest of hearts that we have to share that we have lost a beloved part of the Pizza and Pasta Factory family. Words can’t begin to describe how much we will miss you," the restaurant wrote on its Facebook page.
Casing a neighborhood to steal cars
The driver of the vehicle that caused the crash, Samuel Villar, 19, of Somerset, and a 17-year-old were attempting to burglarize cars in nearby Marlboro, according to Ciccone. Villar took off when Marlboro police responded, leading the officer on a pursuit that ended in Old Bridge.
Villar's vehicle had been reported stolen from New Brunswick on October 23, according to Ciccone.
Villar was arrested and charged with one count of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, four counts of second-degree aggravated assault, one count of second-degree eluding, one count of second-degree employing a juvenile and one count of third-degree theft. Villar is being held at the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center pending a detention hearing.
The 17-year-old was charged with an act of juvenile delinquency for offenses that are the equivalent of third-degree burglary, one count of fourth-degree joyriding, and one count of third-degree conspiracy to commit burglary.
Ciccione asked anyone with information about the crash to contact her office at 732-745-4328.