The Trentonian, Trenton, N.J.
HAMILTON — Bordentown Township Police Chief Brian Pesce nearly struck another driver “head-on” while allegedly driving hammered through the township last month, records show.
Pesce, a 23-year veteran, was placed on restrictive duty after news of his arrest became public.
The incident happened April 22 just before 10:30 p.m. in Hamilton’s University Heights neighborhood, near Bruin Drive and Terrapin Lane.
Body-camera footage obtained by The Trentonian showed the police chief sprawled on the ground, with his hands resting behind his head, behind his red Chevy pickup truck.
An officer asked the police chief if he lived with his wife and whether they could call her to let her know what was going on.
Cops pointed out that Pesce’s pants were “down” and he was sleeping in the middle of the road. They tried negotiating for his passcode to unlock his phone so they could call his wife.
“What’s the problem?” Pesce asked.
“Nothing,” the officer responded, “but you look sick. You got a bash on your head and there’s some kind of liquid — I thought it was piss but it might be throw-up next to your tire. Brake fluid possibly? I’m not gonna get down there and smell or dissect it.”
The chief is charged with reckless and drunken driving, leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage, and failing to report an accident.
Defense attorney John Hartmann said the police chief has pleaded not guilty and intends to “aggressively fight” the charges. Pesce is scheduled to appear in Hamilton municipal court next week, Hartmann said.
“He’s presumed innocent. There’s not reason to resign,” he said.
According to police records, Pesce was behind the wheel of a red pickup truck when he nearly smashed into another driver head-on on Deacon Drive before running over at least one mailbox on the same street.
The woman whose vehicle was almost struck called police and told them Pesce had pulled off to the side of the road and got out of the pickup on Bruin Drive.
The police chief was allegedly so drunk that he was “barely able to stand,” the woman told a dispatcher who advised her not to continue following the police chief because he lived in the neighborhood.
She described Pesce as being so “obliviated” that he was passed out in the middle of the street, according to 911 phone calls obtained by The Trentonian.
TheTrentonian —911 Call about drunk driver in Hamilton
“He just swerved again, almost into a mailbox,” the woman said. “He’s weaving all over the place. … Oh my god, he’s going to go up the curb. He’s gonna kill somebody.”
An officer later found Pesce’s pickup truck on the side of the road at the intersection of Bruin and Terrapin drives.
He was laying on the ground next to where he had vomited and had abandoned his keys in the middle of the road, the report said. Pesce had sustained a cut above his left eye and a golf-size contusion on his head, according to the report.
Officers noted that Pesce was unable to stand and sit on a stretcher “under his own control.”
Paramedics advised cops that Pesce was intoxicated. The police chief spoke slowly and slurred his words, claiming that he only had a “few drinks about 10 hours ago,” the report stated.
He claimed that he was not behind the wheel and a friend had been driving his vehicle but abandoned him in the township. He did not identify the person he claimed was driving his pickup.
Police said Pesce was unable to answer any more questions “due to his level of intoxication.”
Officials drew blood from Pesce at a hospital to determine his blood-alcohol level. The results of the blood test were not in the police report.
Pesce served as interim police chief in 2017 after ex-chief Frank Nucera abruptly retired when he learned he was the target of a federal hate crime case.
He was promoted to police chief in 2018, promising to bring change and reform to a department that was accused of unfairly targeting minorities under Nucera’s leadership.
Pesce was one of the main witnesses at Nucera’s hate-crime trials. Nucera was accused of slamming a Black teenager’s head into a door jamb at a township hotel in 2016.
Nucera was convicted of lying to federal agents about the assault, but two juries were hung on more serious charges of hate-crime assault and civil rights deprivation. He was sentenced to 28 months in prison and is appealing his conviction.
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