MILLVILLE — Timothy Seidel, 23, was charged with two counts of aggravated manslaughter Monday in the accident that killed city Police Officer Christopher Reeves.
The state PBA initially said Reeves was responding to a chase, but Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae and city police would not comment on that. They also would not comment as to whether Seidel was driving under the influence of alcohol.
Sunday morning’s crash left Reeves’ police cruiser in shambles, and the 40-year-old Reeves became the first member of the Police Department to die while on duty. He was pronounced dead at the scene, Millville Capt. Matt Rabbai said.
Also in Reeves' car was Officer Jonathan Seidel, who is not related to Timothy Seidel. Jonathan Seidel was listed in stable condition at Cooper University Hospital in Camden on Monday, awaiting surgery on an injured left arm, Rabbai said.
Reeves had served as a training officer many times and was giving a tour of the city to Jonathan Seidel when the accident occurred.
He was on his way to back up another officer when he turned left from Broad Street onto Third Street around 2:15 a.m. That’s when a car driven south on Third Street by a man who authorities charge was fleeing from local police slammed into the side of Reeves’ cruiser.
Webb-McRae said in a statement that the accident occurred while Timothy Seidel, of Magnolia Drive in the Laurel Lake section of Commercial Township, was allegedly “attempting to elude (city police) for motor vehicle offenses, one of which was striking another police cruiser.”
Seidel was also charged Monday with a single count of eluding, vehicular homicide and aggravated assault. The defendant also faces several motor vehicle offenses, she said.
Bail for Timothy Seidel — whom Webb-McRae said is listed in critical condition at Cooper — is set at $500,000 cash.
A police officer can only initiate a pursuit if the officer “reasonably believes” the suspect committed certain offenses, such as a crime of the first or second degree, according to the State Attorney General’s office's pursuit policy, last updated in 2009.
The officer must also reasonably believe that the suspect “poses an immediate threat to the safety of the public or other police officers.”
The officer must further consider other issues, ranging from the likelihood of a successful chase to the amount of pedestrian traffic in the area, before beginning a pursuit.
The policy states there should be no pursuit for a motor vehicle violation unless the suspect is operating the vehicle in a way that endangers other people or police officers.
Residents living near Broad and Third streets said they did not see the accident.
Ivelize Lopez, who lives on Broad Street one house away from where the accident occurred, said the sound of the crash woke up people in her home. She said she saw the damaged police cruiser and the steam that eventually started billowing from under the hood.
Third Street resident Ivory Taylor said she and her 18-year-old daughter, Shaina, were suddenly awakened by the sound of the collision. The Toyota Scion that authorities said was driven by Timothy Seidel wound up on the front lawn of a nearby house, she said.
“It was terrible,” Taylor said. “My daughter was scared.”
Lopez and Taylor both said that police and firefighters quickly converged on the scene. Rabbai said Reeves’ police cruiser did not catch on fire, and what witnesses described as smoke was likely steam from engine fluids spilling out and hitting the hot engine.
Meanwhile, the accident leaves behind a police department mourning the loss of someone its members and many city residents called a good police officer and family man. Reeves’ wife, Susan, is also a local police officer. The couple has a son, Alexander, who just turned 2.
A display case in the lobby of the Police Department contains pictures of Reeves and a small notation that reads End of Watch: July 8, 2012.
Residents were delivering flowers to the Police Department on Monday. A utility pole at the scene of the accident was surrounded by stuffed bears and candles. Balloons reading “We Miss You Already” flew from the pole.
“He was a good person to be around,” Rabbai said. “He always had a smile.”
City police said services for Reeves are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Lakeside Middle School on Sharp Street. Burial will follow at Mount Pleasant Cemetery on Main Street.
A former city firefighter, Reeves was a police officer in the city for eight years, garnering six letters of commendation during that time. Rabbai said Reeves was transferred to the 11 p.m.-7 a.m. shift about a month ago.
Jonathan Seidel joined the Police Department in June. The Pennsville, Salem County, resident, who is married and has one child, joined the department from the Salem County Sheriff’s Office.
Rabbai said Timothy Seidel had applied to be a member of the Police Department, and had taken the required Civil Service examination earlier this year. Rabbai said the department was to notify Seidel on Monday that he was disqualified from becoming a police officer here because he was not a local resident when he took the Civil Service test.
Rabbai said he had no other information about Timothy Seidel.
Officials at Swanson Communications in Vineland confirmed that Timothy Seidel once worked there. They said he since moved on to sell cellular phones at a store in the Cumberland Mall in Vineland.
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