Cop jumps into frigid Passaic River to rescue suspect, authorities say

Amir Sinclair Copeland (Photo: Dept. of Public Safety)  NEWARK -- A Newark police sergeant jumped into the bitterly cold Passaic River to rescue a suspect who tried to escape from officers and plunged into the water, authorities said Wednesday....

Cop jumps into frigid Passaic River to rescue suspect, authorities say
Amir Sinclair Copeland (Photo: Dept. of Public Safety) 

NEWARK -- A Newark police sergeant jumped into the bitterly cold Passaic River to rescue a suspect who tried to escape from officers and plunged into the water, authorities said Wednesday.

Police spotted a stolen Chrysler Town and Country minivan with two suspects inside who were reportedly seen tampering with vehicles in late Tuesday night, according to Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose. The driver, Amir Sinclair Copeland, 24, drove off when officers tried to pull him over.

The pair ran from the minivan near McCarter Highway and Center Street, according to authorities. Copeland jumped into the nearby river while his passenger ran toward Broad Street and escaped.

Copeland's head went under the water and he appeared to be drowning, leading Sgt. Juan Gonzalez to jump into the river, swim to the suspect and bring him to safety, police said.

"Rather than waiting for a boat or raft to arrive, Sergeant Gonzalez risked his own life to ensure that Copeland would survive," Ambrose added in a statement. "Jumping into the icy Passaic River, swimming out to save the suspect and pulling him to safety is nothing short of heroic."

Copeland was left hospitalized for having water in his lungs, Ambrose said. The sergeant was released from University Hospital after being treated for hypothermia.

Authorities charged Copeland with receiving stolen property, eluding, resisting arrest and weapons offenses. Ambrose said officers discovered a replica handgun and several license plates in the minivan.

The water temperature in the Passaic River in Newark was about 36 degrees Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service's Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center.

In August, a man fled from Harrison police, jumped into the Passaic River and climbed into a drain pipe on the Newark side. He has not been located and it remains unclear if he survived the escape.

Noah Cohen may be reached at ncohen@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahyc and on Facebook. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

 

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