Concerned an ex-girlfriend and others in their circle of friends were descending into drug use, two young men from Clifton took their intervention to unusual heights.
First the pair, self-described admirers of the Shinobi ninja warrior culture of feudal Japan, donned masks and black SWAT-type vests early Wednesday. Then they armed themselves with swords, ninja throwing knives, nunchuks and throwing stars.
They carried letters that threatened "justified yet merciful force" to those who ignored their warnings and continued to smoke pot or, worse yet, persuaded others to try the drug.
They planned to drop the letters at the doors of friends, including one they accused of supplying the drugs to others. As assurance against counterattacks, they brought along homemade smoke bombs they'd concocted from instructions on YouTube.
But the art of the ninja, based on stealth and cunning, failed them.
At their first stop, the modern-day vigilantes delivered their fearful missives under the watchful eye of two Clifton patrolmen who happened to be standing in the shadows.
The officers quickly arrested Tadeusz Pertkiewicz, 20, and Jesse Trojaniak, 19, after watching Pertkiewicz deliver the first letter to the home of an ex-girlfriend, on Valley Road near Route 46, and run back to his car about 2:30 a.m.
"It wasn't a good idea," said Trojaniak, as he sat on the front porch of his home after spending a few hours in the Clifton city jail. "But I thought my intentions were just. That's why I stuck with it. But I wouldn't do something like this ever again."
Trojaniak, a sophomore at Montclair State University, was released on a summons and is due back in court to answer a charge of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
"Their intentions may have been good," Detective Capt. Robert Rowan told reporters. "But we tell everyone that they shouldn't take the law into their own hands because it will cause more problems for everyone in the long run."
Pertkiewicz was released from jail yesterday on $20,000 bail. He faces weapons charges and a charge of harassment for targeting the home of his ex-girlfriend, a charge he flatly denies.
"I want to be very clear, there was no intent of harassment at all," said Pertkiewicz, a Bergen Community College anthropology student and volunteer karate instructor for Clifton children.
"It's not because she was my ex-girlfriend; it was because of what she was doing."
He said she was allowing others to use her home to smoke pot.
The letters stated "Shinobi will stop your cruel and sadistic intentions with justified, yet merciful force." The correspondence accused pot smokers and drug dealers of having "committed sin of passing impurity" to others. It also said the "wind guides us to those of impure heart and intent."
But Trojaniak, a self-taught martial artist, said they never intended to physically harm the letter recipients, including one purported drug dealer on the list to receive a letter.
He said the pair had considered throwing smoke bombs into the dealer's home and calling emergency workers who would later discover the drugs.
"The only thing we were going to use, pretty much, is the smoke bombs, which were just to throw down on the floor where they'd panic and freak out and then we just run the hell out of there," he said.
Both men said the purpose of their dramatic warning was to save friends from lives ruined by drugs.
Trojaniak's father, who stood nearby, said he felt his son was trying to convey an important message.
"But it was a stupid thing, and I told him that it should be done differently," said Stanley Trojaniak, 50, an immigrant from Poland.
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