Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on July 12, 2023, Kevin Valverde-Cruz, 21, of Jackson, pled guilty to Aggravated Assault and Eluding Law Enforcement before the Honorable Linda G. Baxter, J.S.C. (retired and serving on recall), in connection with an incident that occurred on October 18, 2022 in Lakewood Township. At the time of his sentencing on September 8, 2023, the State will be seeking a term of five years New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) as to the Aggravated Assault charge, and five years NJSP as to the Eluding charge. The sentences are to run concurrently.
On October 18, 2022, Detectives from the Lakewood Township Police Department observed a white Jeep Grand Cherokee traveling at a high rate of speed, and attempted to effectuate a motor vehicle stop. The operator of the vehicle failed to stop and the pursuit was ultimately terminated on the Garden State Parkway due to public safety concerns. Later that evening, the same vehicle – confirmed by the vehicle’s New Jersey registration number from the first encounter – was located on the shoulder of the westbound lane of Central Avenue in Lakewood. Detectives approached the vehicle and made contact with its operator. The operator of the vehicle did not comply with the Detectives commands, put the vehicle in reverse, and struck the Detectives’ vehicle. The operator of the vehicle abruptly turned back into the roadway – almost striking the Detectives – and fled the area.
An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Lakewood Township Police Department Detective Bureau, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, determined that Valverde-Cruz was the operator of the subject Jeep Grand Cherokee on October 18, 2022.
On January 10, 2023, the Ocean County Regional SWAT executed a court authorized search warrant on Valverde-Cruz’s residence in Jackson Township. Valverde-Cruz was taken into custody without incident, and processed at Lakewood Township Police Headquarters. The white Jeep Grand Cherokee was also located at the residence in Jackson Township. Valverde-Cruz was transported to the Ocean County Jail, and subsequently released as a consequence of New Jersey Bail Reform.
Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Assistant Prosecutor Madeline Buczynski who is handling the case on behalf of the State, and commends the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force, Lakewood Township Police Department Detective Bureau, Lakewood Township Police Department Patrol Division, Jackson Township Police Department, Howell Township Police Department, Ocean County Regional SWAT, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, for their collaborative efforts in connection with this investigation leading to Valverde-Cruz’s guilty pleas, and soon his state prison sentence.