According to North Bergen Sgt. Carmine Pellechio, the strange-but-true tale began at approximately 2:05 a.m. last Sunday along Tonnelle Avenue, when a North Bergen patrolman noticed a Nissan sports car traveling at a high rate of speed and also having a loud muffler.
The officer tried to pull the car over at 92nd Street and Tonnelle Avenue, but instead of stopping, the driver sped away.
At that same time, a Subaru sports car flew past the police car on the left and drove into the left lane of Tonnelle Avenue into oncoming traffic.
"Why the other vehicle pulled into the oncoming traffic remains a mystery," Pellechio said. "The second car was speeding as well. But why the vehicle made that move is not known. No one would have ever paid attention if it wasn't for that move into the oncoming traffic. It then became an attempt to stop two vehicles."
But contrary to other published reports, the North Bergen police vehicles did not continue the pursuit once the two vehicles went into Fairview, Pellechio said.
"Once they left our jurisdiction, we were told not to pursue them," Pellechio said. "It ended our involvement." The North Bergen police dispatcher then radioed the State Police Enforcement Network, which told neighboring police departments about the two vehicles. Once the vehicles entered Fairview, in Bergen County, the Fairview police picked up the chase.
The two vehicles were then chased by law enforcement officers in about a dozen Bergen County municipalities, including Fairview, Closter, Emerson Borough, East Rutherford, Lyndhurst, and Cresskill.
"They apparently sped through several towns in Bergen County, and those police departments chased them," Pellechio said.
The Nissan with the loud muffler eventually crashed when it hit a tree in Closter, according to Pellechio. "But the occupants fled on foot and were not captured," Pellechio said.
Back to North Bergen The Subaru continued its escape throughout all over Bergen County and police were in pursuit of the vehicle for more than a half hour.
Pellechio, who was on duty that night, continued to track the pursuit on the SPEN radio.
"I recognized that they were pursuing the car back toward North Bergen," Pellechio said. "They were traveling on Route 17, then onto Route 3 East. I just had a feeling that it was coming back toward North Bergen."
Sure enough, the Subaru made its way back to North Bergen, now traveling on Tonnelle Avenue (Routes 1 & 9) south bound. In his patrol car, Pellechio followed the vehicle, but last week, he vehemently denied any pursuit. "We did not pursue the vehicle," Pellechio said. "I followed the pursuit. I saw the vehicle ahead of me and saw it enter Jersey City. That was the last I saw of it."
The Subaru then somehow managed to maneuver around the Jersey City traffic circle and head back north on Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen.
"I got a report that there was a crash on 10th Street and Tonnelle and that the occupants of the car got out and fled on foot," Pellechio said. "When I got to 10th and Tonnelle, I knew it was the same vehicle."
Apparently, the vehicle tried to make a right hand turn off Tonnelle onto 10th Street and didn't know that the street has been closed by concrete dividers. The Subaru crashed into one of the concrete barriers and lifted the vehicle off the ground, causing the actors to flee after the crash.
At that point, the CSX railroad police were summoned to the scene, bringing their K-9 patrol.
"The dogs picked up a scent from the vehicle and continued to track the suspects," Pellechio said.
But after a while, the police dogs lost the scent, right behind a hotel at 1300 Tonnelle Ave.
"None of the actors were apprehended," Pellechio said.
All escaped Pellechio said that registration checks on both vehicles proved that they were stolen.
"The Nissan was stolen in West New York," Pellechio said. "Closter police determined it was stolen after talking to the car's owner, who didn't even know that his car was missing. The Subaru came from Bloomfield and investigation proved that it was stolen as well. The owner in Bloomfield didn't know his car was taken from where he last parked it on the street."
Pellechio said that the conditions of the cars might prove that the cars were stolen by joy riders and not car thieves looking to take the vehicles to "chop shops" for illegal sales.
"There was too much damage done to the steering columns in stealing the cars," Pellechio said.
North Bergen police are continuing the investigation, trying to gain any evidence that might lead them to the car thieves who led police on the dangerous joy rides.
"We're processing the vehicles to find any information that will help us find the actor or actors involved," Pellechio said.