Off-duty officer faces DWI charges in crash that toppled sign

The neon sign for Benash Liquors was knocked down in the accident. A co-owner of the store said it had existed for more than 60 years at the intersection of Route 38 and Church Road.
The neon sign for Benash Liquors was knocked down in the accident. A co-owner of the store said it had existed for more than 60 years at the intersection of Route 38 and Church Road.
Posted: June 26, 2014

A Camden County police officer has been removed from street duty and is facing drunken driving charges after he allegedly drove a red pickup truck through three street signs, struck a building, and knocked down the longtime neon sign for Benash Liquors in Cherry Hill.

William A. Grasso, 21, of Hammonton, N.J., was charged with suspicion of driving while intoxicated and reckless driving.

The crash occurred shortly before 2 a.m. Friday in the traffic circle at Route 38 and Church Road. Grasso was off-duty at the time, police said, though it is unclear where he was coming from.

In a statement, Camden County police spokesman Mike Daniels said the department's internal affairs unit was investigating the crash.

"The officer has been taken off the street and relieved of police powers as the facts of this incident are ascertained," Daniels said.

Grasso could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and Daniels said he was unsure whether Grasso had an attorney.

According to an accident report filed by Cherry Hill police, Grasso's truck hopped a curb in the traffic circle median, struck two road signs, and went back onto the road before hopping another curb. Grasso's truck then plowed into another road sign before ramming into the liquor store sign, the report said.

After striking the sign, Grasso's truck hit part of a brick retaining wall and, finally, a tree, according to the report.

Grasso was taken to Kennedy Health System in Cherry Hill for head trauma and bleeding.

The liquor store sign - known for its red and yellow arrow pointing toward the store's door - had been around since 1947, said Rich Brooks, co-owner of Benash Liquors. He called the sign an area icon.

"The guy pretty much destroyed it," Brooks said.

Brooks snapped photos of the damage early Friday after learning about the crash. They show the windshield on the pickup severely cracked, and the front end nearly totaled.

Cherry Hill police declined to release Grasso's blood alcohol content at the time of the crash, and the accident report indicates that blood test results were "pending."

Camden County police, from their website, nominated Grasso for officer of the week for his "outstanding police work" in September 2013.

Grasso is the second member of the Camden County Police Department to run afoul of authorities in Cherry Hill while off-duty.

On May 7, a lieutenant who led the department's narcotics unit allegedly exposed himself at a Starbucks on Route 70 East.

Benito Gonzalez Jr. of Sewell was suspended without pay and charged with a disorderly persons-lewdness offense.

Gonzalez is scheduled to appear in Cherry Hill Municipal Court on July 9.

Grasso is scheduled to appear in the same court next Wednesday.


mboren@phillynews.com

856-779-3829 @borenmc

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