At a little before five a.m. on Jan. 23, four men pried open the sliding glass door of a private residence and took a family hostage on Newkirk Street in North Bergen. Demanding money and drugs, they tied up the five family members – including a 4-year-old boy – and beat the father with various weapons. Eventually the father was able to break free and escape to call for the police, at which point the assailants fled.
Police have released a sketch of one of the suspects and are pursuing leads in the case.
The assault was apparently a case of mistaken identity, with the assailants believing they had targeted a drug dealer.
“They attacked him while he slept,” said Det. David Dowd, one of the supervising officers. “He was beaten over his head and body and yanked from the bed.”
The attackers wore “winter-type masks” over their faces and wielded at least one handgun and a knife. “He was brought downstairs to the family room where the other family members were brought,” said Sgt. Dowd. “And he was questioned about where the money was and the drugs. That’s where they placed the bag over his head.”
‘It could be the end’
In addition to the 56-year-old beating victim, the hostages included his 36-year-old wife, their 8-year-old daughter, and their 4-year-old son.
Hearing the commotion, the wife’s 65-year-old father emerged from his bedroom in the basement. “He heard some kind of distubance and came upstairs, saw a flash of light and knew something was not right, so he went to further inquire,” said Dowd. “He saw men accosting his son and tried to help defend him. He got attacked, he was beaten and bloodied. I believe he had stitches.”
The victims were bound with their own shoelaces, extension cords, and cellphone chargers, according to Sgt. Dowd.
“He felt like this was it, it could be the end.” – Sgt. David Dowd
Instead, the victim felt an adrenaline rush and managed to escape, according to Dowd. “He’s pretty strong, a big guy, pretty muscular, so he managed to break free of his restraints,” said Dowd. “Once he did that, because the beating was focused on him, he thought if he was able to get out, maybe they would follow him.”
Fending off his assailants, the man fled. “He ran toward the sliding glass door and smashed through the door, didn’t wait to open it. He thought he could be shot from behind at any moment,” said Dowd.
The assailants followed the man out of the house as he banged on the door of a neighbor’s home and alerted the police.
The victim was taken to a local hospital for treatment. “He had lacerations and cuts all over his head and his arms and legs,” from the beating, said Dowd. “Also obviously from jumping through the glass door.” The gun barrel had been pressed to his head so forcefully that it left a impression in his skin. “He has a shaved head. It actually made a circular mark on his head.”
Abandoned by the assailants were various implements including the crowbar. “All the items that were left behind by the actors involved are being extensively looked at by the state police forensic unit, [seeking] latent fingerprints, trace evidence, DNA, fibers, anything that would possibly lead to an apprehension,” said Dowd.
In addition, the police released the sketch of one of the assailants. Although the robbers wore masks throughout the attack, “for a brief moment one of the actors involved had pulled down his mask while he was talking to one of the victims,” according to Dowd.
“This is a pretty serious crime,” Dowd said. “To conspire with one another to wear masks and [bring] knives and a crowbar, to break into someone house and kidnap them is a very serious crime.”
“This kind of experience, home invasion at four in the morning, you’re sleeping, you’re woken, you’re vulnerable, there’s no way to prepare yourself,” he said.
Also supervising the case is Sgt. Bronson Jusino, working with numerous detectives and investigators.
“So far since the release of the sketch we have been investigating some leads,” said Dowd. “The case has not gone cold,” although due to the nature of the case no further details could be disclosed.
Anyone with information should contact the North Bergen Police Department at (201) 392-2100.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.