By ERIN ROLL
Montclair and West Orange police are searching for at least one suspect who may be armed following a vehicle pursuit that ended in Montclair’s South End on Monday, with officers responding with their weapons drawn and several schools in lockdown for some time.
The vehicle, a white four-door Lexus sedan, ended up on the lawn of a Cedar Avenue home following a pursuit that began in West Orange, according to Montclair Police Lt. David O’Dowd. At least one person bailed out from the vehicle, and West Orange authorities believed at least one of the vehicle’s occupants was armed.
Montclair was asked to assist and set up a perimeter, and at least a dozen police vehicles converged on the intersection of Cedar Avenue and Orange Road shortly after 11 a.m., O’Dowd said. Officers were seen conducting a foot search on Orange Road, weapons drawn. The Essex County Sheriff’s Office arrived a short time later with its K-9 unit to assist with tracking.
Susan Anderson, a spokesperson for the West Orange Police Department, said that the pursuit began when police in West Orange saw a white Lexus traveling north on High Street at a high rate of speed at 11:05 a.m. She said that when police attempted to stop the vehicle, it took off and eventually entered Montclair. The driver lost control of the vehicle, struck a tree and came to a stop on Cedar Avenue, where the driver bailed out of the vehicle and evaded capture.
The investigation was still active as of 3:10 p.m., and no one was in custody. Anderson said that the police were looking for a single subject. No description of the person was available, and Anderson could not immediately comment on reports that the subject may have been armed or on whether the vehicle had been reported stolen.
No injuries were reported as of publication, according to O’Dowd.
Allan Althill, who works at the South End Liquor Store on Orange Road, said that he had heard that the white sedan was stolen. He said that he saw a police vehicle hit the white sedan and push it onto the lawn just before 11 a.m. “Cop car hit him, pushed him on there.”
“I heard smash, bam,” said a resident who declined to give his name. He said that he had also heard that the vehicle was stolen.
O’Dowd said that Nishuane and Charles H. Bullock elementary schools, as well as Glenfield Middle School, were placed on lockdown as a precaution. Nishuane is located a short distance up the road on Cedar Avenue. That lockdown has now been lifted.
“To my knowledge, it seemed an adequate response,” said Mike Baden-Campbell, who was waiting outside Nishuane at dismissal time Monday. He said that it was his understanding that Montclair dispatched an officer to the school to oversee the lockdown. “Presumably, someone fleeing on foot is not going to flee toward a school,” he said.
Some parents said that they weren’t aware that the lockdown had taken place.
The lawn where the vehicle had ended up still had tire tracks and fragments of vehicle debris on it.
The Montclair Public Schools sent a notice to parents announcing that the lockdown had ended, saying: “This morning we were notified that the Montclair Police were working in cooperation with the West Orange Police because there may have been a person armed and on foot in Montclair. Nishuane, Bullock, and Glenfield were put on lockdown per police instructions and no visitors were allowed at that time. We have received the all clear signal from the Montclair Police and all activities are continuing. We thank the Police for their vigilance and support throughout the district.”
This is a developing story. Follow Montclair Local for more information.