For the past couple weeks, have been on the trail of a brazen car burglar.
The man, caught on tape wearing a hat with a football logo and dressed in a gray hoodie, dark pants and sneakers with bright red or red-orange shoelaces, had been striking repeatedly along Route 4 in Fair Lawn and Elmwood Park.
Car owners were returning to their vehicles to find their windows smashed and valuables taken. One car was stolen from a 7-Eleven parking lot in Elmwood Park.
“He continued to hit,” Lt. Bob Kneer said. “We kept missing him and missing him.”
Resolved to put an end to the burglaries, Kneer came in on his day off on Saturday determined to bring the string to an end.
“I said, ‘I’m gonna get him,’” Kneer said he told the detective captain. "We’re coming in. We’re going to get him.”
So Kneer, a 38-year Fair Lawn police veteran, brought in Detective Tim O’Shaughnessy and Officer Anthony Lugo.
Kneer said he deduced it was likely the thief would strike early in the morning, and so just after 7am Saturday, the trio set out for Broadway in three unmarked vehicles and with three locations to monitor on Route 4.
“It got to be about 9 o’clock, everybody was getting a little itchy,” Kneer said.
Around 9:15, Kneer spotted a man fitting the description of the thief walking casually down the highway.
“I saw him coming down Broadway, walking nonchalant, just waiting for easy prey,” Kneer said. “But he found out there were a couple hawks up above him.”
The man crossed the highway, scaled the divider and headed toward , between Whitehall Street and Midland Avenue.
There, as an unsuspecting woman and her young daughter exited their idling Honda Accord and headed toward the shop, the man darted toward the car, ripped open the door and jumped inside, Kneer said.
Kneer tried to cut off the theif with his car as he exited the driveway, but had to veer out of the way when the man didn’t stop and sped onto the highway.
O’Shaughnessy chased after the car on foot, yelling for the man to stop.
Traffic conditions prevented any kind of high-speed chase, as both Kneer and Lugo tailed the car thief up Broadway, while O’Shaughnessy continued to trail on foot.
Police apprehended the burglar after he made an abrupt right turn onto Plaza Road, and Kneer was able to get out in front of him with his car, Kneer said.
Police jumped from their vehicles with guns drawn, commanding the man to get out of the car. He didn’t react, Kneer said, but just kept looking around, and at one point reached down at his side.
“We ordered him out and ordered him out,” Kneer said. “It got scary because he kept looking around. ... I told Lugo to cover me, ran up to the car, opened up the door and forcibly took him out.”
The man was later identified as Jose N. Lopez, 33, of Paterson.
Lopez was charged with three counts of burglary into vehicles, two counts of theft of movable property, one count of hindering apprehension or prosecution, one count of aggravated assault on a police officer and one count of possession of burglary tools, for a screwdriver he had on him.
Kneer said that Lopez confessed to not only the theft of the car Saturday, but also the burglaries along Route 4, and stealing the vehicle from the Elmwood Park 7-Eleven.
A criminal background check on Lopez turned up a record for motor vehicle theft in Florida, where he is currently wanted for grand theft auto, Kneer said.
Lopez’ bail is set at $110,000 with no 10 percent option. He’s being held in Bergen County Jail until a Nov. 2 municipal court date.