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Cop Dead in Crash With Allegedly Intoxicated Howell Man

Howell resident arrested after smashing car into Mount Arlington police cruiser, officer pronounced dead at scene

An intoxicated driver smashed into a police cruiser and killed the Mount Arlington officer inside early Sunday morning, Morris County Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi said.

Officer Joseph Wargo, 38, was pronounced dead at 1:25 a.m. at about an hour after the crash in Mount Arlington, Bianchi said. Police have arrested Michael Cassella, 29, of Howell, with several charges including vehicular homicide and aggravated manslaughter.

Information provided by the prosecutor's office did not specificy a blood alcohol level or say what intoxicating substance Cassella is alleged to have used.

"We are deeply saddened by the tragic and senseless death of Officer Wargo," Bianchi said. "He died proudly serving his community."

Bianchi said that at about 12:12 a.m., the Morris County Communications Center received a report of a motor vehicle entrapment involving a Mount Arlington Police cruiser on Route 80 East.

Police determined Cassella, who was traveling west on Route 80 at a “high rate of speed,” lost control and slid sideways across the center median into the eastbound side of traffic, Bianchi said. Cassella's vehichle then struck Wargo’s crusier, which was heading eastbound “in a non-emergencay mode of travel,” he said.

The New Jersey State Police, along with other area law enforcement agencies were dispatched to the scene. When they arrived, they found Cassella’s 2011 white Mitsubishi Lancer positioned perpendicular to the direction of traffic on the eastbound side of traffic, Bianchi said.

Wargo’s cruiser, which suffered extensive front-end damage, was found further eastbound in the woods off of the highway, he said.

Mount Arlington Mayor Art Ondish, reached Sunday, called the death "a tragedy for Mount Arlington."

"We lost one of our family and it's just a time to grieve right now," Ondish said.

The Morristown Police Department, through the Nixle community notification service, offered condolences as well: "Thoughts &prayers go out to mt arlington pd & the family of Ofc. Joe Wargo who died this morning in a horrible crash on rt.80."

Bail was set for Cassella at $500,000 with no 10 percent option. Cassella was taken to the Morris County Correctional Facility in lieu of bail. He's charged with aggravated manslaughter, vehicular homicide, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and speeding.

"Offer Wargo's death, as well as the [by a man ], again underscored the dangers that all of our police officers face each day," Bianchi said. "While Morris County enjoys a safe community, the fact is that each day every police officer knows that at any moment a situation could arise that places their life in danger."

"On behalf of the men and women of the Morris County Prosecutor's Office and the entire law enforcement community, I extend our prayers and condolences to Officer Wargo's family, friends and the Mount Arlington Police Department," he said.

According to the state Department of Corrections, Cassella had previously been jailed 2009 in Monmouth County on drug convictions, but was released later that year.

The accident remains under investigation and police are asking anyone with information to call the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office at 973-285-2900 or the Morris County Sheriff’s Office at 1-800-COP-CALL.

KingNeptune October 16, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Looks like you're going back to jail, have fun.
Danny October 16, 2011 at 07:30 PM
My condolences to Officer Wargo's family and co-workers. May he rest in peace. May the dirtbag who killed Officer Wargo rot in prision. Why is it the good ones die and the dirtbags walk away.
Marc October 17, 2011 at 02:16 PM
The Driver was not Drunk he was under the influence of a controlled substance! Inotherwords this piece of Garbage Michael Cassella was STONED out of his Mind at the time of the incident. He was arrested twice before on drug related charges. Thanks to Garbage Druggies like this out there none of us are safe on the road. It Could have been any of us on Rt 80 at the time. Please Have Michael Cassella ROT in Jail. My condolences go out to the Wargo Family on your terrible loss.
Cluch October 17, 2011 at 03:28 PM
r.i.p
lilmama October 18, 2011 at 12:07 AM
WOW I guess the words allegedly intoxicated mean nothing to anyone. Michael is not a dirtbag or a drunk druggie. Did it occur to anyone that maybe he took a prescription medication and fell asleep at the wheel. He does not even drink! My heart breaks for Officer Wargos family and friend, having lost my father in an accident cause by a drunk driver I know the pain that they are going through. But even when it was my own father I did not wish death or life in prison to the young kid that him. I know Mike and I know that him and his family are devastated that this happened and that this man lost his life. That is something that knowing Mike he will have a hard time living with. It is a tragic loss for both Officer Wargo and Mikes families. It is not like Mike went out that night saying I am going to kill a cop tonight it was an ACCIDENTa horrible tragic accident and now 2 good young men lose there lives.
Jim Keating October 18, 2011 at 03:30 AM
It seems as if "lilmama" knows something we don't know and should be questioned by the State Police! If casella was taking medication that would have caused him to fall asleep at the wheel, Why was he driving "lilmama"? Also if someone killed my father from drunk driving you better believe that someone would be looking for JUSTICE to prevail, do you understand where I am coming from?
lilmama October 18, 2011 at 04:30 AM
I do understand where you are coming from and my point was not that Mike should go unpunished anything like that. But I know when my father was killed it wasn't on the news the kid was not charged with vehicular homicide and aggravated manslaughter and as a matter of fact he walked away on a paperwork technicality. Its not as though Mike or the kid that killed my father went out that night with the intentions to harm anyone. And I am not saying that i know something that the police don't I am sure they know what medications he was on. All I am saying that instead of everyone going on here and presuming to know exactly what happened and what kind of man he Mike is and how he should be punished, why not write a comment in tribute to the man that lost his life, instead of all the negativity. This was a Tragic accident and my Officer Wargo RIP and my prayers go out to his family and friends!
Jamie DeAngelis October 21, 2011 at 02:27 PM
2 people didn't lose their lives 1 did. His name was Joe wargo he had a heart of gold who would have done anything for anybody. He made me laugh all the time and 3 hrs before this horrible accident he was telling me about his gym he was going to open. His life was taken by a Dirtbag who did have drugs on him and has had past arrests for drugs. Mikes actions might cause his life not to be the same, but he caused it with his poor judgement. Joe was in the wrong place at the wrong time. You will see more facts as time goes by and I wish I could state them here. If you are friends with mikes family please tell him I don't wish him death but I hope when he tries to sleep at night he thinks about what he has done and the lives that he has ruined.
pvab February 03, 2013 at 12:11 PM
I AM SO VERY SORRY FOR WHAT HAS HAPPENED AND NOW I CAN ONLY HOPE AND PRAY THAT OFFICER WARGO'S family can have some closure and move on with their lives. I am Michael Cassellja's cousin and we grew up together playing hockey and football until he moved to n.j. in his mid teens. I understand why people are mad and upset and even frustrated at what happened. But to call my cousin a dirtbag and to hope he rots in jail exemplifies everything that is wrong in todays society. See I too had my father taken by the hands of another human being and I knew that being a follower of Christ, I would eventually have to forgive that person as I have asked God to forgive me for all sorts of things. It is the only way to regain any sort of peace and serenity in my life. I am in no way asking anyone to forget what happened but knowing my cousin, who has to spend the next 20years in prison, he is living in his own hell on earth and will have to live with what he did the rest of his life. I have and will continue to pray for the Wargo family. I know this is hard but instead of wishing death on my cousin, please pray for him as well. Lets not give the devilish anymore of a foothold on this planet than we already have. Thank you and God Bless.

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