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Late Cliffside Park Police Officer's Father Awaits Masses, Vigil

Stephen Petruzzello Photo Credit: Jerry DeMarco
Ron Petruzzello (second row, center) Photo Credit: Jerry DeMarco
Stephen Petruzzello Photo Credit: COURTESY: Cliffside Park Police Department

CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. -- Two Masses and a candlelight vigil attended by police, borough officials and others will be held for Cliffside Park Police Officer Stephen Petruzzello on Tuesday, a year after he was struck and killed by an SUV while on duty.

The "more personal" Mass will be celebrated at 8 a.m. at Epiphany Church, the late officer's father, Ron Petruzzello, told Daily Voice.

Then, at 5 p.m., a Mass requested by the family will be held at Our Lady of Grace Church in Fairview. It will be followed by a candlelight vigil at the spot on Walker Street near John Street in Cliffside Park where the 22-year-old officer and partner Thaier “Theo” Abdallah were struck while both were special police officers.

"Theo got the ball rolling on the vigil, and there's been great interest," Ron Petruzzello said. "We're supposed to have bad weather, but maybe it will hold off.

"It should be nice."

Petruzzello said he'll likely be thinking about how "no one ever came forward to say they saw something -- even though there must have been about 30 cars that passed....We wish that somebody would have helped."

Barely a month out of the Bergen County Police Academy, the Class 1 special officers were walking a beat near the Palisade Avenue sub-precinct, where they were stationed, when they were hit by a Honda CRV driven by Anie Kalayian.

Kalayian was headed east toward Palisade Avenue when her vehicle hit the officers, knocking Petruzzello an estimated 25 feet, law enforcement sources told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

Abdallah recovered, but Petruzzello died at the hospital a day and a half later. Borough officials that same day made the bright, hard-working and supremely dedicated public servant a full-time officer. They gave his family Badge #133.

Kalayian, a trauma expert and author who was in the SUV with her 93-year-old mother, told police that she didn’t see Petruzzello and Abdallah. She received several summonses, later took a plea and was fined $378 and four points off her license.

That only compounded what already was a difficult 2015 for the Petruzzellos.

"I work all the time , so I have that distraction," the elder Petruzzello told Daily Voice. "But the grief is heavy on my wife. I'm hoping once we pass this day and get into the new year, there will be a turnaround."

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