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MOUNT ARLINGTON, N.J. (AP) — Prosecutors say a veteran police officer was killed when a man allegedly driving under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance crashed into his police cruiser on a northern New Jersey highway.
Twenty-nine-year-old Michael Cassella of Howell faces numerous charges — including aggravated manslaughter and vehicular homicide — in the crash on Route 80 in Roxbury that killed 38-year-old Mount Arlington officer Joseph Wargo.
Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi says it appears Cassella was westbound and speeding when he lost control of his vehicle around 12:10 a.m. Sunday. It then slid across the median and entered the eastbound lanes, hitting Wargo's cruiser and knocking it off the highway and into a wooded area.
Wargo, who was on routine patrol at the time, was flown by helicopter to Morristown Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 1:25 a.m. He is survived by his wife.
Cassella was being held Sunday afternoon at the Morris County Jail on $500,000 cash bail. Officials did not know if he had retained an attorney.
Mount Arlington officials say Wargo had served on the borough's police force for more than 10 years. They described him as "a fun-loving guy with a heart of gold" and a dedicated officer who was president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 78.
Calling Wargo's death "senseless and tragic," Bianchi said it "underscores the dangers that all our police officers face each day."