Hundreds pay their respects as Linden cop is put to rest

LINDEN – Mourners and fellow police officers bid goodbye on Thursday, March 26, to Frank Viggiano, the 28-year-old police officer killed in a wrong-way accident on Staten Island last week that also left one city man dead and two other Linden officers critically injured.

Flanked by a sea of police officers and an honor guard of flags, the funeral procession slowly made its way up Orchard Road in Linden to the Linden Presbyterian Church. Inside the hearse was the silver-colored casket of Viggiano, a decorated police officer who had been on the force for five years.

With rain threatening, several hundred police officers from towns as far away as South Jersey and New York stood silently and respectfully, shoulder to shoulder, with bagpipers providing a solemn haunting goodbye as Viggiano’s casket was carried up the stairs and into the church.

New York authorities have said the four men were headed back to Linden shortly before 5 a.m. last Friday after a night at a local strip club when Linden Police Officer Pedro Abad turned his Honda Civic the wrong-way onto a one-way service road that led to the expressway.

Minutes later, an oncoming truck managed to swerve out of the way to avoid the oncoming vehicle, which was traveling north on the southbound highway. A few seconds later, New York Police Department investigators said, Abad’s car plowed headlong into a second oncoming 18-wheeler, killing Viggiano and Linden resident Joseph Rodriguez, 28, who was laid to rest yesterday.

Abad, 27, and another Linden police officer, Patrik Kudlac, 23, remain in critical but stable condition in separate Staten Island hospitals.

New York authorities are still investigating whether alcohol played a role in the crash, and have reportedly obtained a warrant to test Abad’s blood. It is unknown if this test is under way, but authorities have said the test results could take weeks.

In the interim, it has come to light that Abad had been charged with two previous DUIs, one in 2011 and another in 2013.

According to police reports obtained by LocalSource, although the Linden police officer was charged with a DUI in 2011, those charges were either dismissed or pleaded down to lesser charges. Court records that would substantiate what took place regarding this charge were not immediately available.

In 2013, the Rahway Police Department arrested Abad on a DUI charge after his BMW crashed into a parked car on Monroe Street in that city. Subsequently, Abad went to court on two violations, one a DUI, issued by the Rahway Police Department. He received a six-month suspension of his license.

When his license was restored in May 2014, the court ordered that Abad have an interlocking device installed on his car for 180 days following the six-month suspension of his license. The police officer was still on the police force during this time but it is unknown whether his duties entailed driving a police cruiser.

According to information made public by the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission, Abad has had a total of eight accidents since 2005, in addition to a violation for using a cell phone while driving.

Linden Police officials have been closed-mouthed about Abad’s driving record, releasing no information regarding Abad’s driving record or whether they were aware of the DUIs or not.

Last week Linden Police Capt. James Sarnicki said, “We will let the investigation air out what happened.”

Likewise, this morning, prior to the funeral, Linden Mayor Derek Armstead told the media that after the funeral and mourning process there would be a complete and thorough investigation of what happened and if all procedures and protocols were followed or not.