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Gang Member Had Loaded Handgun in Car, Mendham Twp. Cops Say

Search of impounded vehicle revealed suspected stolen weapon leading to one man's arrest and a second remains at-large.

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.

For questions about this post, email jason.koestenblatt@patch.com.

Noreen Staples February 28, 2014 at 04:24 PM
Great job MTPD.
Geoff Cabral March 01, 2014 at 09:38 AM
But,but,but: I thought these laws were designed to protect us from criminals carrying guns! But, at least one of these guys in two different cars had a LOADED GUN?! IOW, laws that infringe against law-abiding citizens their inalienable right to protect themselves/their families aren't being followed by gang members? Who wouldah thunk it?!
Anthony John March 03, 2014 at 09:21 AM
What I want to know is where were they coming from or where were they going.
Reality Chuck March 03, 2014 at 10:29 AM
Another example of where being a gang member has no relation to intelligence....knuckle heads....

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