Police are searching for a Lakehurst man they say hit another vehicle on Route 37, fled the scene, then tried to plow into an off-duty Seaside Heights police officer who witnessed the incident and flagged him down.
The hit-and-run unfolded at about 9:30 p.m. Sunday night, Toms River Police spokesman Ralph Stocco said. Robert Dechert, 54, of the 200 Block of Cedar Street in Lakehurst, was driving his 2014 Kia east on Route 37 when it collided with a 2002 Chevy driven by Gary Pintler of Toms River. Dechert fled the scene in his vehicle after the accident, leaving his bumper and license plate behind, Stocco said.
The crash was witnessed by uniformed, off-duty Seaside Heights police officer Erik Hershey, who followed Dechert’s vehicle to the Aqua Blu restaurant on Route 37 where he parked. But as Hershey approached the vehicle, police say, Dechert accelerated rapidly, directly at the officer in an attempt to strike him.
Hershey jumped out of the way and avoided being struck as the Kia fled the wrong way on Route 37 against traffic, Stocco said.
Dechert was positively identified as the driver and a warrant was issued for his arrest, Stocco said. He is charged with attempted murder by means of a motor vehicle and numerous motor vehicle violations. Bail has been set at $500,000.
Dechert and the vehicle are still being sought by investigators. Anyone with information should call Toms River Police Traffic Officer Mark Nater at 732-349-0150.