Two men, including a reputed gang member, who were trying to help a friend during a traffic stop have been charged with having an illegal, loaded handgun in their car, Mendham Township Lt. Ross Johnson said.
Sgt. Matt Ambrosi stopped
Michael Gatens, 26, of Piscataway, on Tempe Wick Road for having no front
license plate, a broken taillight, and failure to maintain his lane at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, Johnson said.
While speaking with Gatens, Ambrosi detected the smell of alcohol, Johnson said. Gatens was then asked to perform a field sobriety test. While doing so, a second vehicle pulled up to the roadside stop, with the driver and passenger claiming to be friends of Gatens, Johnson said.
While speaking with the occupants of the second vehicle, Ambrosi detected a “strong odor” of marijuana coming from the car, and asked the driver to pull over. The driver, Thomas Jones, 25, of Piscataway, was accompanied by passenger Michael Howard, 24, of Dunellen.
During an investigation, Jones consented to a search of his
vehicle, Johnson said. Jones requested the search stop midway through, resulting in the vehicle being impounded pending a search warrant, Johnson said.
The search warrant was granted on Monday and a suspected stolen loaded handgun was found in the trunk of the car with its serial number scraped off, Johnson said.
Jones turned himself in on Tuesday and was lodged in Morris County jail in lieu of $150,000 bail. He was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of a defaced firearm and possession of marijuana under 50 grams.
Howard was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of a defaced firearm, and possession of marijuana under 50 grams, but his arrest is still pending. Once apprehended, he will face a bail of $50,000.
Johnson said Howard is a known Crips gang member.
Gatens was charged with driving while intoxicated and cocaine possession.
Harding Township police, Morris County Sheriff’s K-9 and Mendham Borough police all assisted at the scene.
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