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MUPD Safety Officer Injured by Drunk Driver

The-CrashA Long Branch resident has been charged with drunk driving after colliding head-on with a University security vehicle, injuring a member of the University police force near the intersection of Palmer Avenue around 11:40 pm on Saturday, April 19, according to William McElrath, Chief of the University Police Department.

The suspect, 32-year-old Francis Bebout, was driving a 2012 Dodge Charger southbound along Larchwood Avenue when he crossed over into the oncoming lane and slammed into the parked security vehicle, a 2008 Ford Escape. Safety Officer Michael Cittadino was sitting in the front seat of the security vehicle and sustained injuries from the impact.

Lawrence Mihlon, West Long Branch Police Chief, said Bebout traveled approximately 62 feet in the wrong lane and pushed the Escape about 16 feet along the road before it smashed into a piece of the fence between Kessler Field and the baseball field. Mihlon said it's not known how fast the Charger was traveling at the time of impact.

After the collision, Cittadino called in to the University police by radio to indicate he was involved in an accident. Bebout also used the officer's radio to make sure the University police would respond to the scene, McElrath said.

University Sgt. Milton Morris, Patrol Officer Jim Gaul and Safety Officer Mike Tallarico responded to the scene of the accident, along with several West Long Branch police officers.

Cittadino temporarily lost consciousness, but was outside of the vehicle by the time police arrived, Mihlon said. He was administered medical treatment and taken to Jersey Shore Medical Center (JSMC) and not Monmouth Medical Center because JSMC is the regional trauma unit, according to Mihlon. Bebout did not sustain any injuries.

"The full extent of [Cittadino's] injuries has not yet been fully determined as Cittadino is still undergoing tests and treatment," McElrath said. However, he indicated that Cittadino has several bruises but does not have any broken bones and is currently complaining of general soreness.

Cittadino has been a member of the University police force for about seven years. It is not yet known when he will be able to return to work.

Crash-FenceThe Dodge Charger is registered to Bebout and was impounded. The Escape was taken to Artie's Towing in Long Branch.

The West Long Branch Police Department is currently conducting the investigation because the incident took place outside of campus borders. Mihlon said Patrolman Nicholas Ferrugiaro is leading the investigation.

Bebout was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and refusing to take a breath test, according to Mihlon. "I can't disclose too many details because we're still pre-trial, but we got one breath sample from him, but he refused another breath test, so that constitutes a refusal," he said.

If Bebout is convicted, his sentence has the potential to be reduced because he radioed into MUPD for help, according to John Comiskey, assistant professor of criminal justice. "If [Bebout] is convicted, the judge would take all circumstances into account during the sentencing phase. He couldn't use the fact that he called for help as a defense, but rendering aid may help him with his sentence," Comiskey said.

Grey Dimenna, Vice President and General Counsel said monetary recovery for the damage to the security vehicle would be handled by the University's insurance company, New Jersey Manufactures. "The insurance company pursues getting reimbursed for any damages to the car...Plus, the officer, because he was on duty, would be covered under workman's compensation," Dimenna said.

Dimenna continued to say the General Counsel likely won't have a role in any of the proceedings. "However, the officer, theoretically if he wanted to, he could go after them for damages, though that would be up to him," he said.

Bebout was released on own recognizance to a family member the night of the accident and a court date has not been set yet, Mihlon said. Each charge carries a maximum of a seven month prison sentence and a fine of $300 to $500, if convicted.

PHOTO COURTESY of MUPD

PHOTO COURTESY of Paul Williams