MONROE TWP. — A Monroe Township police officer who was seriously injured when he was hit by a drunken driver in June was presented with a Valor Award Monday night by the Gloucester County Hero Scholarship Fund.
It was just after 9:30 p.m. on June 21 when Ptl. Anthony Vezza made a motor vehicle stop, pulling over a vehicle on Route 322 for having an expired registration.
Vezza parked his patrol car on the shoulder, with the front partially in the travel lane. He exited his car and approached the unregistered vehicle. As Vezza was beside his car’s front driver’s side wheel, another vehicle traveling west on Route 322 hit the driver’s side rear fender of the patrol car, according to police reports.
That car rotated, slide along the patrol car and hit Vezza, who was thrown about 30 feet forward. He came to rest in the travel lane of the highway.
Vezza realized he was still in danger as he saw headlights coming toward him. Despite a traumatic leg injury, he managed to roll himself up against the car he’d pulled over. Vezza had lost his radio on impact, so he asked the driver to call 9-1-1, and told the driver what to say to get the proper emergency equipment needed to render assistance.
Vezza was airlifted to Cooper University Hospital in Camden.
An investigation showed that the driver who’d hit Vezza was driving while intoxicated, almost four times the legal limit, according to lab results.
Vezza has had several surgeries and is in physical therapy, trying to get back in shape, hoping to return to active duty.
GCHSF President Michael McEnery presented the Valor Award to Vezza at a meeting of the Monroe Township Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 125 in Williamstown Monday.
“The Monroe Township police department and the residents of Monroe Township are missing a ’Top Cop’ today due to the actions of this drunken driver,” McEnery said.
Vezza “is missed every day and this world is not as safe as it was when he was on the job,” he said.
Accepting the award, Vezza thanked his fellow officers, especially the members of his squad who came to his assistance the night he was hit.