A Burlington Township police officer, one month away from marking a year on the job, is charged with vehicular homicide, connected to the September car crash in Florence Township that killed his passenger.

Police tape (Ivan Bliznetsov, ThinkStock)
Ivan Bliznetsov, ThinkStock

Justin Rodriguez, 25, is accused by causing the death of Ariana Williams, 27, of Florence, according to Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi and Florence PD Chief John A. Bunce. He posted $50,000 full bail after his Thursday arrest, authorities said.

The charge arises from the results of crash investigations and toxicology tests of Rodriguez's blood samples, which Bernardi said revealed excessive alcohol levels.

Williams was pronounced dead on the scene. Rodriguez was off-duty in his own car, an Acura Integra, that careened into a utility pole on West Front Street at about 2:10 AM on September 23, authorities said. No one else was in the car.

Rodriguez was flung from the vehicle on impact. He was treated at Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton, and released September 26.

The case now goes to a grand jury, which will determine if sufficient evidence exists for a trial.

The Burlington Township Police Department issued the following statement:

"The members of the Burlington Township Police Department, first and foremost, would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family of Ariana Williams. We cannot even begin to imagine the pain and grief they are experiencing over their loss. This was a tragic and preventable accident, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family.

This incident was investigated by the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, in conjunction with the Florence Township Police Department. The Burlington Township Police Department had no role in the investigation; however, we have faith in the fact that it was conducted in a thorough and fair manner. In addition, based upon the evidence, we concur with the determination that criminal charges were warranted and appropriate.

The officer has been on administrative leave since the date of the crash. However, as a result of the current charges, he will now be suspended without pay. He will remain in that status pending the outcome of the criminal case.

As an agency, the Burlington Township Police Department values our professionalism and integrity above all else. The allegations against this officer do not reflect those values, and they have no place in our agency."

Charges are accusations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless, and until, found guilty in a court of law.

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