LINDEN — A passenger is accused of punching a taxi driver and pushing him onto Route 1 while trying to get away from a Home Depot with stolen items on Monday afternoon.

The taxi was hired for a trip from Elizabeth to the store on Route 1 by Manuel Martinho, 51, of Flemington and an unidentified second man around 1 p.m., according to Linden police. The 78-year-old cab driver waited for Martinho to finish his shopping for a return trip.

Martinho returned to the cab with the other man and put their newly acquired goods into the trunk for the trip back to Elizabeth. When the cab reached Park Avenue while headed northbound on Routes 1&9, a taxi dispatcher radioed the driver to return to the Home Depot.

The driver complied with his dispatcher but Martinho screamed at the driver to ignore him and repeatedly punched the driver as he compiled, according to police. Martinho is accused of pushing the driver out and onto the highway, then taking off in the cab.

The cab driver was treated for minor injuries, according to police.

Cab continues to Elizabeth

Elizabeth police Martinho a short time later on Jersey Street with 23 rolls of Romex wire stolen from Home Depot in the trunk valued at approximately $3,500, Linden police said. Martinho was charged with first-degree carjacking and third-degree shoplifting.

Linden police released a photo of the second man in the cab who has not yet been located or identified. He is described as a heavy-set Hispanic man wearing a green jacket.

Romex is a company that sells wiring commonly used for lighting and outlet circuits in commercial work.

Anyone with information about this incident or the second man is asked to contact Linden Police at 908-474-8537.

A $10,000 reward remains posted for information to locate a hit-and-run driver that struck Rayan Bien-Aima, 18, of Rahway on April 25 as he crossed Routes 1&9 at an intersection in front of Aviation Plaza North, the shopping center where Home Depot is located.  Police said Bien-Aima was struck by a dark coupe or sedan traveling north and did not stop.

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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