State Grand Jury Declines to Criminally Charge Marlboro Police Sergeant in Connection with Pursuit that Led to Fatal Crash in Old Bridge on November 9, 2022

For Immediate Release: 

Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
Office of Public Integrity and Accountability
– Thomas J. Eicher, Executive Director

For Further Information:

Media Inquiries-
Dan Prochilo

TRENTON — A state grand jury has voted to not file criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Arturo Tlapa Luna, 33, of Freehold, New Jersey, a driver whose vehicle was hit by a stolen vehicle during a November 9, 2022, police pursuit. A Marlboro Township Police sergeant was pursuing the stolen vehicle but was not involved in the crash.

Mr. Luna’s death was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to New Jersey residents serving on the state grand jury in accordance with the Independent Prosecutor Directive of 2019 (the “Directive”). In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral and objective manner, with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the Directive.

The investigation included interviews of witnesses, review of photographs and video footage, and autopsy results from the State Medical Examiner. This evidence, including video of the incident, was presented to the grand jury. After hearing the testimony and reviewing the evidence, the grand jury concluded its deliberations on January 8, 2024, and voted “no bill,” meaning jurors concluded no criminal charges should be filed against Marlboro Police Sgt. Gregory Arrone.

According to the investigation, on November 9, 2022, the fatal crash occurred at 2:14 a.m. near the intersection of Spring Valley Road and Route 9 South in Old Bridge, after Sgt. Arrone attempted to stop a stolen Nissan Maxima, while investigating attempted car thefts from a neighborhood in Marlboro, Monmouth County. Sergeant Arrone learned the suspects were checking to see if they could open the doors of parked cars in driveways. When police officers arrived, the suspects ran back to the Maxima and fled the area.

The driver of the car, later identified as Samuel Villar, 20, of Somerset, New Jersey, drove away at a high speed and was pursued by Sgt. Arrone. The pursuit spanned nine miles, lasted more than seven minutes, and reached speeds of over 100 mph. OPIA’s investigation revealed that, during the pursuit, in the early morning hours, few cars and no pedestrians were along the route of travel. But, the pursuit continued to a heavily trafficked area of Route 9, where the vehicle Mr. Villar was driving ultimately ran a red light at a high speed and collided with a civilian vehicle that had the right of way. The driver of that civilian vehicle, Mr. Luna, died from injuries sustained in the crash. Sgt. Arrone’s vehicle was not involved in the accident.

On June 14, 2023, Mr. Villar pleaded guilty in the Middlesex County Superior Court to aggravated manslaughter, aggravated assault while eluding, and eluding. On December 4, 2023, he was sentenced to serve 12 years in New Jersey state prison, 85 percent of which must be served before parole eligibility, pursuant to the “No Early Release Act.”

Footage related to the crash from a traffic camera, a security camera, and a police dashboard camera were previously released. Those recordings are posted online: Click here to view the recordings.

A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody. It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved. The grand jury is instructed on the elements of the potential criminal offenses, including criminal homicide offenses, that could be brought and, as required by statutes, is instructed on self-defense and other forms of legal justification.

A conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation. Prior to presentation to the grand jury, the investigation was reviewed by OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations in the SOPs.

At the conclusion of these investigations, pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any principal should be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for administrative review in accordance with the AG’s Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures. OPIA monitors any resulting review and takes such actions as are necessary to ensure that the review is completed in a timely fashion, and that appropriate actions are taken based on the results of the review.

The Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website and is available here: Independent Prosecutor Directive

OPIA’s standard operating procedures for grand jury presentations of investigations involving fatal police encounters are also posted on the Attorney General’s website, and are available here: OPIA Grand Jury SOPs




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