What to Know
- A 29-year-old man has been arrested, accused of drunken driving, in an October crash that killed his passenger, an off-duty NJ cop
- 30-year-old Giovanni Esposito was killed in the collision with a tractor-trailer Oct. 15 on Route 1 in Linden
- Prosecutors say the driver, Ricardo Dos-Santos, had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit when he hit the truck
A 29-year-old New Jersey man has been arrested in connection with the allegedly drunken wreck that claimed the life of his passenger, an off-duty police officer, in October.
Ricardo Dos-Santos was charged Tuesday -- three months to the day Hillside officer Giovanni Esposito died -- with second-degree vehicular homicide and a number of traffic offenses, including driving while intoxicated and speeding.
Prosecutors say Dos-Santos had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit when he smashed into the back of a tractor-trailer that was stopped at a light on Route 1 in Linden on Oct. 15. His passenger was the 30-year-old Esposito. Both men were taken to hospitals with serious injuries; the young officer, who had less than a year on the force, died a short time later.
Hundreds of relatives, friends, police officers and other members of the community gathered to remember Esposito at a funeral shortly after his death. Chief Vincent Ricciardi said Esposito had graduated from the Essex Police Academy at the top of his class and served as class commander there.
Although a family member encouraged him to join the fire department before he took the police exam, Esposito ultimately decided to stick with the police department, Ricciardi said.
"He decided wanted to protect others from harm and keep our streets safe," Ricciardi said. "That heart of gold was obvious to the entire police department."
He also cited the officer's "enthusiasm, diligence and compassion" while on duty.
Dos-Santos was taken into custody without incident this past weekend, prosecutors said. He is expected to have an initial court hearing later this week. Information on a possible attorney for him wasn't immediately available.