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Fire burns home of cop who slapped ‘bunny suit’ prankster

Nick Maresca and his family
Nick Maresca and his family (via GoFundMe)

MOUNT ARLINGTON — A fire Tuesday burned the home of the Hopatcong police officer who was recently sentenced for slapping a man dressed in a bunny suit.

Mt. Arlington Police Lt. Ed LaBruno told New Jersey 101.5 that no one was home when the fire broke out between 6:15 p.m. and 6:26 p.m. The home suffered “significant fire and water damage” from a rapidly moving fire that left the home uninhabitable, according to LaBruno, who said the fire may have started because of an electrical issue in a bedroom.

A neighbor broke down a door to rescue the family’s dog, according to LaBruno.

Response to a fire in the Landing section of Mt. Arlington
Response to a fire in the Landing section of Mount. Arlington (Mount Arlington Fire/Rescue)

Several fire companies responded to a fire on Audrey Road in the Landing section of Mount Arlington, according to LaBruno, who said no firefighters were injured.

“Last night good friends of ours lost their house and belonging to a house fire. They have been through hell these past months and this just puts icing on the cake. They are always offering to help everyone near and far and now they need our help,” Bonnie Cooper wrote on a GoFundMe page.

“A house fire has taken their belongings, memories and perishables but not their spirit,” Ruth M. Perez wrote on her Facebook page, where she also said she was a cousin by marriage.

Netcong Fire Company No. 1, Roxbury Co No. 2 Firehouse and the Picatinny Arsenal Fire Department all responded to the fire, according to the Mount Arlington Fire/Rescue Company Facebook page. The American Red Cross tweeted that it assisted the family of six on Tuesday night.

Morris County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Fred Snowflack said the county’s arson unit has not determined a cause.

Officer Nicholas Maresca Jr. punched Kevin Hemmerich after he came to the Hopatcong police department with his brother to turn himself in on a warrant, dressed in a bunny suit and blowing an air horn in the lobby. When Maresca came into the lobby and asked why he was blowing the horn, Hemmerich giggled and said he didn’t know. Maresca hit Hemmerich in the face, cursed at him and led him away. The incident was captured on video

Horn-blowing bunny fined; NJ cop who slapped him goes to trial

The brothers recorded the encounter said they were going to sue for assault charges.

Hemmerich eventually pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and Maresca pleaded not guilty to charges of simple assault. Earlier this week, Maresca reached a plea agreement that dropped an assault charge and requested a waiver from a state law that would have required Maresca to resign from his job following a conviction. He also was fined $500.

The Associated Press contributed

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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