Cranford police officer suffers broken hand when narcotics arrest turns violent
A Cranford police officer was hospitalized after a narcotics arrest turned violent during the early morning hours today at Cranford High School. Officer John Rattigan was conducting a security check of the Cranford High School property at approximately 1:22 a.m. when he saw three men crouching behind a retaining wall located in front of the school building. With another officer respondeding to assist, the officers approached the group and found all three were to be in possession of suspected marijuana, as well as an open container of alcoholic beverage. As they were being placed under arrest, all three attempted to run away.
Despite being ordered to stop, Russell Holtz Jr., 19 of Rahway, attempted to flee and was tackled to the ground and handcuffed. Nathanael Greene, 19 of Cranford physically resisted and had to be wrestled to the ground when he tried to pull away to flee. He continued to flail his arms and strike at Officer Wagner, and was eventually subdued and restrained with assistance from other officers. During the melee, Officer Wagner suffered a broken hand and had to undergo surgery later in the day.
Colin Embry, 18 of Westfield, fled the scene on foot towards Berkeley Place, but was identified by police due to his New Jersey driver’s license which was left at the scene. Embry turned himself in at the Cranford Police Department a few hours later. As a result of the incident, all three subjects were charged with resisting arrest, possession of marijuana, and possession of narcotics paraphernalia.
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Greene was additionally charged with aggravated assault on a police officer and Holtz was charged with underage possession of an alcoholic beverage. Police recovered three zip top bags of suspected marijuana and open bottles of Bacardi Rum and wine at the scene.
Cranford Police Chief Eric Mason believes the incident highlights the dangers his officers face every day. “In this day and age, no community is immune to violence, and no incident is routine,” he stated. “These officers confront criminals and respond to unpredictable situations every day; they place themselves in harm’s way each and every time they come to work. In this particular case it resulted in a serious injury and I wish Officer Wagner a safe and speedy recovery.”
Holtz and Embry were released after processing with a first appearance scheduled in Superior Court on January 3, 2011. Greene was released after posting $5000 bail, also with a first appearance on January 11, 2011.