LAKEWOOD, N.J. (AP) — One moment, they were just talking, the young police officer in the patrol car who had rolled up alongside the even younger pedestrian.
It was a low-key give-and-take, question-and-answer exchange Friday afternoon, not hostile or confrontational.
That changed in an instant, when the pedestrian pulled a handgun out from his baggy clothing, stepped back and fired three shots into the officer, who never had a chance.
Patrolman Christopher Matlosz slumped behind the wheel of his police cruiser, mortally wounded, his gun still in its holster. The gunman ran away, touching off a massive manhunt by land and air that continued Saturday, with authorities vowing he would soon be caught and punished.
Scores of officers on foot, in cars and in helicopters scoured the area where the shooting occurred, a neighborhood near the Jersey shore where Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford said several drive-by shootings had occurred.
She called the shooting "an execution-style killing."
The 27-year-old Matlosz had just transferred off the midnight shift a week ago. He was engaged to be married next year, and his fiancee rushed to the hospital where he died less than an hour after being shot.
The suspect was described as a black male in his early 20s or late teens, 5-foot-6 or 5-foot-7, stockily built with sunken eyes and puffy cheeks. He was wearing a black hoodie and dark jeans slung so low that gray boxer shorts were visible, according to a witness account to police.
Matlosz was conducting "a routine stop" of the suspect, chatting with him for a few minutes, Ford said, leading authorities to believe the two may have been acquainted with each other before the shooting.
While the suspect fled on foot, a neighbor called 911 just after 4 p.m. to report an officer down. Matlosz was rushed to Jersey Shore University Medical Center, where he died in the trauma unit.
The State Policeman's Benevolent Association is offering a $40,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the suspect, according to the group's spokesman, Jim Ryan.
Lakewood is an ethnically diverse community of 60,000 residents located 54 miles east of Philadelphia and 47 miles south of New York.
Matlosz joined the department Aug. 14, 2006, and lived in nearby Manchester Township, according to Lakewood Police Chief Robert Lawson.
"Chris was one of our most popular officers," Laweson said. "You might say he was the best of us. He was very dedicated to his job. I have a lot of accolades about him from the public."
Matlosz's death was the second shooting involving a Lakewood police officer in recent years.
In September 2009, another Lakewood police officer, Patrolman Jonathan Wilson, was critically wounded when he was shot in the face during a gun and drug raid. Three other officers were shot but received lesser injuries.
A suspect in that case faces attempted murder charges.
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