Route 78 in Hunterdon County closes for hours in police manhunt
Traffic was stopped for several hours on Interstate 78 in Hunterdon County Saturday morning as authorities search for a "subject."
UPDATE: A first-responder tells New Jersey 101.5 someone shot at a police car but no one was hurt. State Police said shortly before 1 p.m. that a windshield of a police car was smashed by an "unknown object" but hadn't yet commented on whether it was a bullet.
Although both sides of the highway were initially closed, the east side reopened around 9:30 a.m., and lanes of the west side began reopening around 11 a.m.
New Jersey Fast Traffic reported that the road was closed between exit No. 24 (Route 523) and No. 17 (Route 31) in the Annandale area due to an accident that took place around 4:45 a.m. on Saturday morning. One westbound lane reopened at about 11 a.m., but traffic remained backed up for several miles.
Callers to New Jersey 101.5 sad they were being turned around by police around and were being warned not to pick up hitchhikers. Helicopters could be seen overhead and some said dozens of police vehicles were on the scene. Some members of the 101.5 audience said they'd been stuck in traffic for several hours.
New Jersey State Police confirmed early on there was a search underway for a "subject" but would not elaborate about the circumstances at that time.
A first-responder reached by New Jersey 101.5 initially received a call via Hunterdon's dispatch system for a single-vehicle accident — but he was told to remain staged for safety. He was told state troopers were on the scene with guns drawn, looking for a subject, he said.
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The first-responder said he was told via Hunterdon County Communications a police car had been shot at, and one to two people were being sought, believed to be in the nearby woods. State Police said later Saturday that an "unknown object" has smashed a police car window, but didn't comment on whether it was a bullet.
No one was hurt, he said.
Shortly after 9:30 a.m., State Police issued the following statement via their Facebook page:
In order to dispel any misinformation that is being disseminated, we want to make it clear that no troopers or civilians have been injured in the incident being investigated on I-78 in Clinton Township. Additionally, we have received no reports of escapes from any correctional facilities.
The I-78 Eastbound lanes has been reopened for travel. I-78 Westbound lanes are currently closed. Westbound traffic is being diverted at Exit 20A.
This is an active and ongoing investigation and additional information will be release when appropriate.
Louis C. Hochman is digital managing editor for NJ1015.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LouisCHochman.