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Hunterdon County Freeholder John Lanza

Hunterdon freeholder too impaired to stand, speak during incident

Officers broke window to get John Lanza out of car, video shows

By Nikita Biryukov, October 11 2019 12:53 am

Click play for audio version of this story

Correction: This article was updated with comment from Lanza’s attorney at 4:32 p.m. Friday. The headline and lede previously referenced an arrest. Lanza was not arrested for a DUI. He was charged with a DUI a month after the incident.

Hunterdon County Freeholder John Lanza was too inebriated to speak or walk unassisted during an incident in August that led to DUI charges, according to a police report and dash cam video obtained by the New Jersey Globe.

Lanza was unresponsive when officers approached his vehicle.

Officers attempts to wake Lanza by shouting and beating on his vehicle’s windows were unsuccessful, and they were forced to break the passenger side front window to gain access to the car, which was parked several feet from the curb and running at the time.

“We got here and he was so bad that we didn’t know if it was a medical or an alcohol emergency … because he couldn’t stand up or respond,” one of the officers said during the incident.

The audio portions of the recordings obtained by the New Jersey Globe cut out frequently and Lanza is not heard speaking on either recording, though he is seen to have difficulty walking

EMTs took Lanza to Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington for an evaluation from the scene.

“4:50 and he’s so messed up that he couldn’t respond or wake up when we were trying break the glass out of his car,” an officer said. “We had to IV him and he could only give one-word answers to questions.”

Officers also found two bank envelopes containing $6,500 and $6,000 in $100 bills in his car. The money was placed into an evidence locker for safekeeping because they had to break window to gain access to his car.

The freeholder was charged with driving under the influence and reckless driving in September. In the videos obtained by the New Jersey Globe, officers are overheard saying the freeholder must have driven by his home to arrive at the site of the incident.

“John Lanza suffered a medical emergency on August 5, in his personal vehicle parked on the street by his home in Raritan Township,” Lanza’s attorney John Paul Velez said in a statement. “Mr. Lanza is most grateful to the Raritan Police Officers who took decisive action, and for the assistance of the Flemington-Raritan Rescue Squad members and the staff at the Hunterdon Medical Center, in what could have been a life-threatening situation. We are confident that this matter will be resolved fairly in the Sparta municipal court.”

Lanza, a municipal prosecutor in East Amwell and Delaware townships, has taken a leave of absence from those positions pending the outcome of the case, but is still seeking a third term on the freeholder board.

Hunterdon is one of an increasingly-small number of Republican strongholds in the state. Democrats have not won a seat there since Benjamin Kirkland won his third term in 1979.

Lanza and West Amwell Mayor Zachary Rich face a challenge from Cullen McAuliffe.

“Another shitshow sandwich,” one of the officers said.

Lanza Incident Report
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