Route 78 in Hunterdon County reopens; ‘unknown object’ smashed cop car window
All lanes are reopened on Route 78 in Hunterdon County mid-day Saturday following an hours-long closure and massive police responsive.
New Jersey State Police said in an Instagram post a marked State Police Chevrolet Tahoe was damaged while stopped on the westbound right shoulder of Interstate 78 in Clinton Township investigating a single-car crash.
While troopers were attending to a smashed-up a 2000 Honda Civic driven by Antonio Melendez, Jr., 29, of Phillipsburg, the rear window of the State Police Tahoe was "struck and shattered by an unknown object," State Police said.
There was a search in the area of the crash for subjects immediately following the broken window, but no suspicious persons were located, State Police said. No troopers were injured as a result of the incident. Melendez was taken to Hunterdon Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries.
A first-responder had told New Jersey 101.5 of initial reports suggesting someone had shot at a police car, but State Police didn't confirm that in their latest release of information. Members of the New Jersey 101.5 audience said they saw dozens of police vehicles on the scene
Both directions of Route 78 were closed for several hours with backups for miles on that highway and Route 22 as drivers sought alternate routes. The eastbound side of I-78 was reopened around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. A westbound lane opened around 11 a.m. and the road was fully opened around noon.
During the investigation, State Police offered little information about the incident except to post on their Facebook page that "no troopers or civilians have been injured" in an effort to dispel rumors about what had happened on Route 78.
Carolyn Renee, an Annandale resident living near Exit 18, told New Jersey 101.5 via its Facebook post on the closure that she "got a recorded message on my home phone from the state police saying to stay inside and secure homes and vehicles ... but that was all it really said."
The incident on Route 78 had repercussions for those not stuck on the highway as well. North Hunterdon High School in Annandale was placed on a lockdown, according to NJ.com, affecting students at school for several activities including cheerleading and SAT prep courses.
The crash and troop car incident remain under investigation. There are no charges at this time and no further information available, State Police said.
Dan Alexander is the Digital Operations Specialist for NJ101.5 and Townsquare Media NJ. He can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter @DanAlexnaderNJ or at 609-359-5358