WALDWICK, N.J. (AP) — A police officer checking for speeders in an unmarked car was killed when a tractor-trailer rear-ended him in northern New Jersey early Thursday morning, making him the second New Jersey officer to die in the line of duty this week.
Officer Christopher Goodell, 32, was operating radar on Route 17 at about 1:30 a.m. when a truck went onto the shoulder of the road and struck the parked police car, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said. The truck pushed the car into a retaining wall.
Goodell, who grew up in the northern New Jersey town and was a Marine Corps veteran, was pronounced dead at the scene. He was a five-year veteran of the police force.
"He was an outstanding person. He was an outstanding officer," Police Chief Mark Messner said. "He loved his country. He loved his town. He loved his police department. He leaves behind his family and a young fiancee."
The truck driver, 28-year-old Ryan Cumberbatch of Brooklyn, New York, was not injured and called 911, Molinelli said. It was not known why the truck went onto the shoulder. The trailer was half-full and carrying produce, the prosecutor said.
The crash remained under investigation, and no charges were filed.
Goodell was remembered by residents as an upbeat person who loved Waldwick, an upscale suburb about 25 miles northwest of New York City. Kevin Carroll, principal of Waldwick High School, said Goodell, a 2000 graduate, regularly gave talks to classes and participated in the school's drunken driving simulation class.
"He loved what he did, he was a committed officer," Carroll said. "He always wanted to give back to the community, and that's what he did over the last five years."
Gregg Burke, whose liquor store faces the police station from across a downtown street, recalled Goodell's sunny disposition.
"He was an incredibly nice person, no bravado to him," Burke said. "Just a nice, easygoing guy. It's a damn shame, it really is."
The truck, still with its hazard lights blinking, had come to a stop on a grassy strip between the road shoulder and a raised backyard. Its cab was at a 90-degree angle from the rest of the truck and had smashed into a white picket fence and stone wall. Fencing and rocks were strewn along the highway.
Brendon Shim, 32, whose house is two doors up from the highway and about 60 yards north of the crash scene, heard what he thought were three loud thunderclaps at about 1:30 a.m. Shim said he would often see an unmarked police car in the area to catch speeders, which he says are a frequent problem.
"At night it's crazy dangerous out here for speeding," he said. "I can hear the sound of motorcycle engines coming by all the time."
The accident happened just days after Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago, a 23-year-old rookie, was slain early Sunday outside a 24-hour drugstore in what authorities say was an ambush.
"Police officers face dangers every single day. We saw what happened in Jersey City," Molinelli said. "We saw what happened to a Bergen County police officer a couple of months ago. Danger faces these police officers at any moment."