New Jersey

Stolen Police SUV Slams into Waiting Area at Hoboken Terminal: Officials

The suspect was spotted on surveillance footage trying to find a car with an unlocked door just before the crash

What to Know

  • Someone stole a police SUV outside Hoboken Terminal in New Jersey and drove it into the terminal doors
  • Law enforcement officials said they're investigating whether the man, who was seen checking car doors, was intoxicated at the time
  • No one was injured, but the terminal's entryway sustained significant damage

A man has been arrested after he allegedly stole an NJ Transit Police Department vehicle and crashed into a waiting area lobby at Hoboken Terminal on Monday morning.

Law enforcement officials told News 4 they're looking into whether the suspect who stole and repeatedly smashed the K-9 unit SUV into the waiting hall near the terminal's ferry slip about 8 a.m. was intoxicated at the time of the theft.

The suspect, identified as 46-year-old Santiago Brito-Avalos, a Mexican national, arrived at Hoboken Terminal from Suffern at about 8 a.m., officials said. He was spotted on surveillance footage checking car doors until he found one that was unlocked. He found a spare set of keys in that unlocked K-9 vehicle, and he drove towards the ferry slip and crashed. 

He tried to drive away, but two NJ Transit police officers approached and tried to open the door. When he locked it, the officers broke through the window on the passenger side and apprehended him, officials said. 

The police dog assigned to the SUV wasn't in the vehicle at the time, officials said. 

Photos posted to social media show the SUV crashed into the doors of the waiting hall with a door ajar. Several officers could be seen around the vehicle, and the area was cordoned off with police tape.

"Couldn't enter Hoboken terminal waiting room and was a little confused because it looked fine, then got around to the ferry terminal and saw this," said one Twitter user.

No one was hurt in the crash on a heavily traveled pedestrian walkway amid the morning rush. 

"There was a huge bang noise, but then we heard it again," said Evelyn Soto, a New York Waterway employee at the terminal at the time of the crash.

New York Waterway boat captain Craig Hygus said it was a miracle no one was hurt.

"The place was packed with people from the PATH system and the traffic was very, very heavy," he said.

Brito-Avalos was taken into custody by NJ Transit police at the scene and was to be remanded at Hudson County Jail in Kearny. He's facing charges of causing or risking widespread injury, theft of moveable property, burglary, auto burglary and impersonating an officer. 

Authorities say it appears to have been a crime of opportunity. There's no evidence Brito-Avalos was trying to harm anyone, and authorities are investigating a history of mental illness, an NJ Transit spokeswoman says. 

Ferry service was not affected by the situation. But it came on a morning where NJ Transit and PATH, which both also run service in and out of the terminal, both experienced significant delays and service suspensions.

NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said the station's ticket windows were closed and that a train on track 8 was being used as a temporary waiting room and restroom. The entryway to the waiting room sustained significant damage in the crash, she said. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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