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Hazleton Residents Witness Start of Alleged Tri-State Crime Spree

HAZLETON — As Luis Figueroa was captured in  Manhattan near the George Washington Bridge, investigators stretching all the way back to Hazleton tried to make sense of a chaotic series of events that included crime scenes in three states.

Police said the Bronx man came to North Church Street in Hazleton where he broke into an apartment and tried to kidnap a pregnant woman.

Hazleton detectives said the woman attempted to stop a passing school bus for help Friday morning. However, the driver of the bus saw Figueroa armed with what appeared to be a shotgun and refused to open the doors.

The owner of the bus company, Jack Martini, would only identify the driver by her first name, which is Wendy, but said her actions were well thought out and she was a valued driver.

A woman who did not wish to be identified told Newswatch 16 that she heard a woman cry for help and looked outside her home near the crime scene.

She said, “I did see something long sticking down under his shirt into his pant legs. That was my first thought, ‘ It was a gun.’ I did see some blood on his shirt, and as he went around the corner, I did see a lot more around there.”

Her husband saw the accused man and his other alleged victim leaving the area. He said, at that point, he did not realize how serious the situation was.

The witness said the accused man and his victim appeared to be relatively calm. He said, “She went very willingly. She had her hand out when he came down the sidewalk. They went hand in hand. “

Another neighbor, Norman Tarantino, said that his dog alerted him something was wrong.  He said, “She started growling at the window and the hair stood up on the back of her collar, something I had never seen.”

Police said that after leaving Hazleton, Figueroa’s next stop was  the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap, where he sexually assaulted the woman.

New Jersey State Police tell Newswatch 16 that even though the woman was bleeding and struggling to stay conscious, she managed to get control of the car and drive to the post office in Columbia, New Jersey.

Police believe Figueroa then carjacked a worker’s vehicle and went to Paterson, New Jersey, where his family members owned an automotive business.

Relatives said that they had been involved in a financial dispute with Figueroa involving a business deal.

Detectives said he then assaulted a worker at the automotive business, set a building on fire, and took off in a stolen Cadillac Escalade.

Port Authority police then followed the Escalade to the inbound upper deck of the  George Washington Bridge and set up a blockade using their vehicles. However, that was not enough to stop the 33 year old, who allegedly slammed the cars and escaped on foot before police captured him on a nearby street.

At least a half dozen people were injured  including the women in Hazleton, the worker at the Delaware Water Gap, the worker at the Paterson automotive business, and several Port Authority police officers.

All are expected to recover.

Figueroa remains in the hospital being treated for burns and other injuries. He faces a long list of charges in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.


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