S.B. officers cleared

in Dec. fatal shooting

Family of victim

is ‘outraged’ over

grand jury finding

A

Middlesex County grand jury has determined that the officers involved in a fatal December shooting in Kendall Park were legally justified.

According to a report released by the County Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday, the grand jury found that Sgt. Raymond Hayducka "was legally justified" when he fired the shot that eventually took the life of 30-year-old Kyung Ho La during a tense confrontation Dec. 20.

The grand jury reviewed the testimony of 18 witnesses as well as 30 items of evidence during their deliberations.

While the report cleared the officers of criminal wrongdoing, it did question the training of the officers involved in handling the incident.

Some of the jurors questioned if the officers were prepared to deal with someone with a mental deficiency, and if other measures could have been used to prevent the loss of life.

According to the report, Hayducka, and Patrolman Scott Williams, joined three other officers in escorting two mental health workers to the 27 Raleigh Road home La shared with his parents, Bak and Myung Ok La, to evaluate him.

According to police, the evaluation was to determine if La was a danger to himself or others after they received reports of bizarre behavior by La over a period of time.

The report states that police called the home prior to the visit to announce the purpose of the visit, and their intentions.

Upon arriving at the home at approximately 3:40 p.m., La’s father suggested that the visitors meet with his son in the garage of the home.

According to the report, La became agitated when being interviewed by one of the mental health workers and re-entered the house and immediately picked up a sword blade measuring between 18-20 inches long.

La refused the repeated commands by the officers to drop the weapon, retreating further inside the home.

Weapons drawn, Hayducka and Williams followed La at close range fearing for the safety of La’s mother inside the home.

According to the report, the three other officers waited outside the home as back-up.

La then lunged at Hayducka with the sword blade.

Hayducka stepped back to avoid the blade, firing a shot at La.

Additional officers were called to the house after the shot was fired.

La then retreated further into the home, still grasping the blade, according to the report.

After about 10 minutes, La laid down on the living room floor and surrendered the blade and was arrested.

It was then that the officers first knew definitely that La had been injured, the report said.

La was transported to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick where he underwent two surgeries for his wounds.

La died at about 1:50 a.m. the following morning.

An autopsy by Acting Medical Examiner Frederick DiCarlo determined that La died from hemorrhagic shock (blood loss) as the result of a single gun shot wound which entered the right hip area, and damaged a number of organs and severed the left femoral artery.

Livingston Attorney Bruce Nagel, who represents the La family, took issue with the version of events, saying that it would be "virtually impossible" for La to sustain such injury and run into another room.

"The entire story is preposterous," Nagel said in a prepared statement, calling for the state attorney general to review the case.

South Brunswick Police Chief Michael Paquette said that while the grand jury questioned the training of the officers in the situation, simply following their commands could have averted the incident

"Although tragic, the incident could have been prevented by Mr. La complying with the officers requests," Paquette said in a news release.

Paquette said that his agency is one of the most highly and professionally trained in the state and that officers logged some 4,000 hours of training last year alone.

Paquette said that Williams and Hayducka received cultural and diversity training at the New Jersey Community Policing Institute, and Williams had additional sensitivity training during his tenure at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.

"This was a situation brought on by Mr. La himself, which put the officers, mental health screeners, his family, and neighbors at risk of serious bodily harm," Paquette said.

Generous supporters deserve thanks

The Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg has been the home of a local food cupboard for a number of years, providing food to needy families regardless of religious affiliation. Food is distributed by appointment on a monthly basis, and emergency assistance is given when needed. The church board of deacons administers the food cupboard under the direction of the chairwoman of the welfare committee.

The cupboard exists primarily due to the generous contributions of food, time and money from church members, local businesses and individuals in Jamesburg and surrounding communities. This report is submitted as an expression of gratitude to all who may have contributed, even if anonymously.

Each year two major food drives are conducted. In November, the local Boy Scouts conduct their annual "Scouting for Food" drive. This year we broke the record for the number of bags brought in by our Scouts. I also suspect that we broke a record in terms of volunteers. Many people, both from Jamesburg and from surrounding communities, were on hand to carry bags, check expiration dates, sort the food, carry boxes upstairs and put away the donations. Our local Boy Scouts deserve an extra thank you for volunteering to help every month with our preparation as we bag and box up food according to family size.

The U.S. Post Office also conducts an annual food drive. Last spring the mail carriers worked tirelessly, making numerous trips from their various routes as the trucks filled with donations. This year they will be picking up food on May 13. Your generosity is appreciated.

While we try to keep our function to acting strictly as a provider of food for the needy, we have had occasional offers of other types of donations. Unfortunately, we do not currently have the space or the staff to handle these and therefore divert them to other organizations.

In 1999 our food cupboard was able to donate food to the victims of the hurricane flooding in Bound Brook. Locally we provided food to 277 families — a total of 725 people. This works out to a total of at least 20,300 meals. The words of gratitude expressed by the recipients of this food need to be passed on to all of you who have generously given so much. Thank you. This year we printed our own "coupons" for milk and eggs, redeemable at a nearby store which allows us to provide these staples as emergencies arise.

Since becoming involved a year ago, I have seen the look of joy on a person’s face when he finally landed a job, relief on the face of the young mother who would have had no Christmas for her children without help. I have seen the poor help the poor, giving one another rides, checking in on one another when illness strikes, being genuinely concerned.

I have also been on the receiving end as the needy volunteered to help out during the food drives. I am proud to be involved.

If you would like to contribute to the food cupboard, donations may be brought to the church and left in the rear of the sanctuary or dropped off at the church office at 177 Gatzmer Ave., Jamesburg. If you would like to volunteer, you may call the church office at (732) 521-1711.

Janet Curtis is the chairwoman of the welfare committee at the Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg.

H.S. needs nominees for Women’s History Month

The North Brunswick Township High School Social Studies Department is seeking nominations for "Women Who Had a Major Impact on the History and Growth in North Brunswick" in celebration of Women’s History Month.

The school is asking residents to nominate women from past to present in all fields, such as the fire department, first aid squad, educator, business, authors, etc.

Nomination forms are available at the North Brunswick Library, The North Brunswick Senior Center, The North Brunswick Municipal Building and the main office at the North Brunswick Township High School. Nominations should be returned to Pete Clark by March 17.

All honored guests will be invited to attend a continental breakfast on March 31 at 9:30 a.m.

For additional information, call Pete Clark at (732) 289-3748.

sport shorts

Monmouth Power, an Amateur Athletic Union basketball club, is seeking talented players for its boys 17-year-old team based in Marlboro. Tryouts will be held in March. For information, please call Chris at 566-3697.

The Middlesex County Over-50 Softball League is accepting applications from individuals wishing to play in 2000. The organization runs a slow-pitch arc league where recreation and safety come first. All games are played on Saturday mornings and the season begins on April 15 and ends in late August. To be eligible, players must reach their 50th birthday by Dec. 31. For more information, call Rich Nadler at 329-8595, or e-mail him at rnadler22@aol.com.

The Central Jersey Hotshots, an under-11 girls soccer team that won its flight in the Mid New Jersey Soccer League last season, is seeking players. Tryouts will be conducted in the East Brunswick area. For more information, call Brad at 257-3738.

The Old Bridge Roller Hockey Instructional Program is holding sign-ups for its spring program, which will begin in mid-April, at the Old Bridge Ice Arena. The nine-week program teaches youngsters the fundamentals of roller hockey, including skating, passing, stickhandling and shooting.

The Wednesday session runs from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and is for children ages 5-8. The Thursday session, which runs from 7 to 8:30 p.m., is open to players between the ages of 9-12.

An advanced session will be held Thursdays from 8:30 to 10 p.m. for players between the ages of 10-13.

Each session includes scrimmages, and full equipment is required.

The program is sponsored by the Old Bridge Parks, Recreation and Social Services Department and costs $70 for residents and $80 for nonresidents. Registrations are being accepted at the Arena Pro Shop. For more information, call John Piccolo at 721-5600, ext. 4025, or 679-8339.

The Marlboro Little League Memorial Day Tournament will run from May 26-29. The league is taking entries for 9-year-old, 10-year-old, 11-year-old, 12-year-old, and Junior (13-14-year-old) divisions. Call Gary Gleitman at (732) 536-4578 for additional information.

Several members of the New York Giants will take part in the Charles Way Football Camp at East Stroudsburg University June 25-29. Boys ages 8-18 will have the rare opportunity to learn football from NFL players such as Michael Strahan, Jason Sehorn, Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Jesse Armstead, Brian Williams, Kent Graham, Phillipe Sparks, and Corey Widner of the Giants. Call 1-800-555-0801.

Holiday displays will remain banned in S.B.

A majority of residents speaking during the public session asked the council to vote the resolution down.

Human Relations Commission member Martin Abschutz reported that the panel is still opposed to allowing the displays.

"We don’t want South Brunswick to be another case to come before the courts," Abschutz said.

Abschutz said the commission feels that individuals should be the ones to erect any displays and that the churches should be open for people to become educated in different religious cultures.

"Government does not have to do it for us," he said.

Gwen Southgate said that any kind of display would create a crack in the separation of church and state.

"It is a slippery slope," Southgate said, adding that she found the discussion "really scary" on how the wall representing the separation between church and state is eroding.

"We are sliding very rapidly toward a de facto religion," she said.

Speaking for the resolution, resident Paul Kessler said that the seniors who initially signed a petition to request that the council allow holiday decorations at the Senior Center did so because it was the first time they were prohibited from having a display.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Kessler presented a second petition with 128 names in support of allowing a decorated tree at the center.

"We request that our annual holiday tree and trimmings be returned," he said.

Kessler said that the petition had signatures from a diverse group of people and that the center was decorated during many different holidays representing a diverse population.

"There was no culture cut out," he said.

Be sure to stay tuned

T

he South Brunswick Township Council has spoken. There will be no religious holiday displays on township property. Not surprisingly, it was not a unanimous decision. In fact, two of the three council members who voted not to change the present township policy prohibiting them originally seemed to favor the displays.

Councilwoman Carol Barrett, one of the two, found the issue to be too divisive.

"If I find an issue is divisive, especially on an issue that is supposed to bring happiness, then I must vote against holiday displays," she said Tuesday, explaining her vote.

Deputy Mayor Frank Gambatese was also torn, but went along with Barrett to "avoid a Pandora’s box of legal entanglements."

He also used the opportunity to take an unnecessary potshot at local clergy, accusing "most" of them of being more concerned about divisiveness than about teaching respect and tolerance."

It seems as if we heard that recently on the presidential primary trail.

The majority of the speakers at Tuesday’s meeting seemed to agree with the majority vote, indicating the township followed the dictates of the community.

Surprisingly, however, as you will read in another story in this week’s Sentinel, other towns in Middlesex County have not had to wrestle with the issue.

The only other county town that even has a policy is North Brunswick, and township officials there took an entirely different approach, establishing a resolution creating a Diversity Display Committee composed of clergy and interested community residents. The committee is now included in the North Brunswick Human Relations Council and approves displays for a piece of land near the municipal building that is dedicated for displays, according to a survey of towns by the Middlesex County Human Relations Council.

South Brunswick’s original decision to ban holiday displays came after a complaint about one at a township park.

While efforts to reverse that ban have failed, the issue is likely to continue to fester.

Mayor Debra Johnson, who opposes the ban, is already questioning whether the ban will affect such township events as the Haunted Halloween trail and the annual Kwanzaa celebration .

So, by all means, stay tuned.

No. Brunswick ready for kindergarten registration

The North Brunswick Board of Education will hold its kindergarten registration for children who will be 5 years old on or before Oct. 1. The schedule is as follows: March 20, Livingston Park School; March 20 and 21, Judd School; March 21 and 22, John Adams School; and March 23, Parsons School. Hours of registration are 9-11:30 a.m. and 1-2:30 p.m. To register, parent or guardian must provide the child’s birth certificate, proof of residency (current lease, municipal tax bill or mortgage, as well as two current utility bills) and the child’s Social Security card. Parents must also present proof of the following immunizations: DPT series, polio series, measles, mumps and rubella.

It is not necessary for the child to attend the registration. Parents who are unable to attend the designated day are asked to call the school for an appointment. The telephone numbers for the schools are as follows: Livingston Park (732) 289-3300; John Adams (732) 289-3100; Parsons (732) 289-3400, and Judd (732) 289-3200.

Parents of students who are presently attending private or parochial school who plan to enroll their child in a public school in North Brunswick in September 2000 should notify the respective school principal. Early notification will help the planning of classes and the purchase of instructional materials.

Rubenstein gets revenge at Region 5

Raider wrestler avenges loss to SBHS’s Fidacaro,

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Dan Rubenstein of North Brunswick Township High School locks up with Piscataway’s Joe Mastrogiovanni at the Super Regions at Red Bank High School in Little Silver on Tuesday. Rubenstein won the match 5-4.

heads to state tourney

T

he 1999-2000 wrestling season was rolling along flawlessly for Dan Rubenstein. The North Brunswick Township High School senior had been undefeated at the 135-pound level, compiling some 25 pins or technical falls, and generally making mincemeat of opposing matmen. Then he ran into South Brunswick’s Anthony Fidacaro in the District 20 finals.

"When I wrestled Anthony I was nervous," said Rubenstein, who won the districts last year. "And he just went out there to beat me."

That he did, by a 10-8 overtime decision. Instead of caving, however, Rubenstein drew strength from his first defeat.

"Everyone said after that loss that it was better to lose in the districts than in the regions, and that the true mark of a champion is to come back from adversity," he said. "I got pumped up and got myself a better game plan."

It worked, as Rubenstein defeated Fidacaro by a 5-1 margin in a Region 5 rematch, then blew out Jared McCaffrey of Voorhees with a 15-0 technical fall to capture the regional championship and bring his record to 32-1.

"I got a four point lead right at the start over Anthony and I just sat on it," Rubenstein said. "Then in the finals I went out to go for it all."

Raider Coach Mark Salge agrees that the district loss turned out to be oddly fortuitous.

"They say everything happens for a reason," he said. "It’s good that the loss came when it did. It took some pressure off him for the regions.

"Dan’s been just unbelievable this year," added Salge. "He’s one three outstanding wrestler awards this year (for the Regions, and after winning the Greater Middlesex Conference and JFK Mustang Invitational tournaments)."

Rubenstein began wrestling at the age of 5, but really hit his stride in ninth grade.

"I started competing for clubs and in freestyle tournaments," he said. "Then I also wrestled as a freshman for the varsity team."

He was named Freshman of the Year by the squad, in fact, compiling a 6-1 record and then participating in some 100 matches during the off-season with his club, The Edge.

The next year, Rubenstein went 22-7 at 119, finishing second in the districts and fifth in the GMCs. He followed up that performance with a 29-5 effort as a junior 135-pounder, a campaign in which he won the districts, placed third in the regions and finished in the state’s top 12.

This year, his natural weight would be about 152, but Salge counseled him to stay in the 135-pound bracket.

"The hardest thing is keeping the weight down," said Rubenstein. "I eat a lot of salad and tuna, which provides the protein. And no soda. But it’s always better to cut weight. You’re always stronger."

Aside from weight maintenance, Rubenstein said the most difficult aspect of the sport is something he has yet to deal with.

"It would be very hard," he said, "to be wrestling for a team that didn’t have a lot of kids pushing you and rooting for you."

With hopes of attending Penn State or perhaps Rutgers next year, the future computer science major sets his more immediate sights on this weekend’s state tournament at the Meadowlands Continental Airlines Arena.

On Tuesday he edged Piscataway’s Joe Mastrogiovanni 5-4 in the Super Regions at Red Bank Regional High School, Little Silver.

Proposed state law would cancel school boards

I wish to bring to your attention a situation that has occurred in the state Legislature. Assemblyman Peter Barnes (D-18th) and Assemblywoman Barbara Buono (D-18th) have reintroduced their bill, ACR 28, to fund public education 100 percent. The state currently funds 43 percent. For the fiscal year 1999-2000, $5.61 billion in school aid and $580.6 million in teacher pensions are currently budgeted.

If the bill were to pass, the following would occur. To fund 100 percent, the state would need to raise taxes an additional $7 billion.

This would mean raising the state sales tax from 6 percent to 14.8 percent or doubling the state income tax. Further, there would be no need for school boards. State bureaucrats from Trenton would run the entire state educational system.

It is quite evident that Barnes and Buono are not in touch with the needs of the taxpayers nor do they have any respect for their paychecks. The last time a Democrat raised taxes, he had a short tenure. Jim Florio raised taxes $2.8 billion, and the citizens of the state were up in arms.

They sent him a clear message the next election period.

Barnes and Buono want to raise taxes $7 billion. This legislation needs to be defeated for the good of the taxpayers and their families.

Norman J. Van Houten

Edison