Officials won’t disclose status of officer who hit pedestrian

By joyce blay
Staff Writer

Officials won’t disclose status
of officer who hit pedestrian
By joyce blay
Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD — No one in a position to do so will say if a police officer who struck and killed a pedestrian in a late-August accident has been suspended from duty with the Lakewood Police Depart-ment while the death is under investigation.

Neither Lakewood Police Department Lt. Robert Lawson, Mayor Raymond Coles, Deputy Mayor Charles Cunliffe nor Township Manager Frank Edwards would say whether Officer Wayne Truex is still on active duty.

Law enforcement authorities are awaiting the results of an investigation being conducted by an accident reconstruction team into the Aug. 30 fatal accident.

A traffic reconstruction expert with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office has made a preliminary examination of the scene where Truex, who was on duty, struck and killed Lester Eldridge, 65, of Elmhurst, N.Y., as Eldridge was leaving a wedding reception at Bias Faiga, an Orthodox Jewish girls school.

The accident occurred at 12:39 a.m., north of the intersection at Clifton Avenue and Courtney Road as Eldridge was walking toward his car, which was parked on Clifton Avenue.

Lawson, a spokesman for the police department, said Truex, who was traveling at a speed of about 30 to 35 mph, said he felt only a bump at the time of impact. Lawson said poor lighting was a possible contributory factor to the accident.

Two officers from the police traffic and safety division, Patrolman Larry Patterson and Patrolman Ray Przewoznik, were called in to investigate the accident, along with shift supervisor Sgt. Joseph Isnardi, Lawson said. Patterson and Przewoznik respond to all significant accidents that involve police officers or township vehicles, the lieutenant said.

Due to the serious nature of the accident and as a procedural matter, Lawson said Truex was asked if he wanted to take a blood test. The officer refused the offer to take the blood test, according to Lawson.

He was not asked to take a breath test.

"There was no evidence that Truex was intoxicated," Lawson said. "He did not exhibit any outward signs of impairment due to alcohol use."

The lieutenant did say he had talked with Truex and that Truex "was traumatized" by the accident.

"To hit someone and kill them with a car is disturbing," Lawson said, adding that Truex became physically ill upon returning to police headquarters.

Eldridge was taken to Jersey Shore Medical Center, Neptune, after being struck by the officer’s patrol car, where attending physician Dr. Nasim Ahmed pronounced him dead at 2:20 a.m. He is survived by his brother, Steven Eldridge.

Lawson described Truex, who has 18 years of service in Lakewood, as an exemplary officer with a distinguished record. He declined to say if Truex was still on active duty, citing it as a personnel matter.

No other township official contacted by Greater Media Newspapers would say if Truex is still on active duty.

Greater Media Newspapers staff writer Charles W. Kim contributed to this story.