YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A Port Authority police officer broke several bones in a Wallington volunteer firefighter’s face after sucker-punching him during a flag football game last weekend, authorities confirmed.
Stanley M. O’Neill Jr. of Hackensack was released without bail pending a court hearing in connection with last Saturday’s incident during the David J. Popek Jr. Man of Steel Football Tournament at the Wallington High School field, Police Chief Carmelo Imbruglia said this afternoon, confirming an earlier CLIFFVIEW PILOT report.
The Port Authority told CLIFFVIEW PILOT tonight that it had suspended O’Neill without pay pending the outcome of the case.
Witnesses said O’Neill hit 22-year-old firefighter Steven Ventura when he wasn’t looking during a game between the Port Authority and a combined police/firefighters team from East Rutherford.
O’Neill, 36, “stated that he was choked and complained of neck pain,” Imbruglia said.
Both men were taken to Hackensack University Medical Center.
After interviewing several witnesses, police yesterday charged O’Neill, a former York College athlete who joined the PAPD in 2010, with aggravated assault.
He turned himself in to be charged, was released without bail and is due to answer the criminal complaint in Wallington Municipal Court on July 6.
Ventura was scheduled for surgery this week. Friends said he had a broken nose and a fractured cheek and eye socket.
The East Rutherford team won the 7-on-7 tournament, which raised money for a memorial scholarship fund named for Popek, a local high school star and federal Air Marshal who died of unknown causes at 25 years in November 2012.
“It is a shame that such a good cause is marred by such a tragic incident,” Imbruglia said. “I am hoping that they continue this fundraiser in David’s name and that one incident, where a player let their emotions get the best of them, does not end the tournament.”
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