Thousands Attend Funeral for Slain NJ Officer

Thursday, 20 Jan 2011 02:19 PM

 

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LAKEWOOD, N.J. (AP) — Mourners have said goodbye to a New Jersey police officer slain in the line of duty.

Funeral services for Lakewood Patrolman Christopher Matlosz were held Thursday afternoon.

His fiancee, Kelly Walsifer, told mourners she would always hug Matlosz before he left for work, saying "Always safe, extra safe."

Now she says she knows Matlosz will always be safe.

State police say 10,000 police officers came to Lakewood to pay their respects, but only a small fraction could get inside the church.

Hours before the funeral began, the teenager suspected of shooting him to death was charged with a different murder.

Authorities say 19-year-old Jahmell Crockam and another man were charged with the Oct. 15 shooting death of Justin Williams.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

LAKEWOOD, N.J. (AP) — Hours before the police officer he is suspected of killing was to be buried, a teenager was charged Thursday with a different murder.

Jahmell Crockam, 19, of Lakewood already faces murder charges in the shooting death Friday of Lakewood Patrolman Christopher Matlosz.

Thursday morning, as mourners were gathering in the church for the officer's funeral, authorities said Crockam and another man were charged with the Oct. 15 shooting death of Justin Williams, whose body was found dumped on a street corner.

Information leading to the new murder charge was developed as police investigated the slaying of the officer.

The new charges were made public as thousands of mourners, including police officers from across the country, streamed into this community near the Jersey shore to say goodbye to Matlosz, who was shot to death last week behind the wheel of his patrol car.

Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford said Crockam and another man accompanied Williams to a location Oct. 15, where Williams was shot to death. Prosecutors did not specify which defendant they believe pulled the trigger, but said both men are legally responsible for the killing, and both were charged with murder. They are being held at the Ocean County Jail in Toms River.

More than 5,000 police officers were expected to attend the funeral Mass at St. Mary of the Lake Roman Catholic Church, a spokesman for the state Policemen's Benevolent Association said.

"They've received inquiries from all 50 states and several foreign countries, including the Bahamas and Canada," said spokesman Jim Ryan.

In fact, so many police officers plan to attend that organizers had them gather in the parking lot of a minor league baseball stadium more than two miles away, where they were bused to the church.

A close friend of Matlosz plans to deliver a eulogy asking the slain officer to look over his friends from heaven. Stephen Gibson, a civilian employee of the New Jersey State Police who was friends with Matlosz for 12 years, plans to recall his friend as "my rock, my go-to person."

"Today I stand before you and tell you that Patrolman Chris Matlosz was a hero," Gibson wrote in remarks he planned to deliver during the funeral. "On that cold January evening, Chris paid the ultimate sacrifice. Christopher Anthony Matlosz, our friend and brother, was taken from us far too early, doing what he loved to do: being a police officer."

Matlosz, 27, was on patrol Friday in a residential neighborhood in Lakewood that had been the scene of several drive-by shootings. He pulled his police cruiser up to a person on the sidewalk and began talking to him in a nonconfrontational manner, authorities said. Suddenly, the pedestrian pulled a handgun out of his baggy clothing and opened fire, shooting the officer three times.

Matlosz slumped behind the wheel, mortally wounded, as the suspect ran away.

On Sunday, police arrested Crockam, who was hiding in an apartment in Camden, about 60 miles from the crime scene. He is charged with murder and weapons offenses, and is being held on $5 million bail. His public defender says Crockam plans to plead innocent at his formal arraignment, which still has not been scheduled.

An hour before the funeral was to begin, a line of more than 100 police motorcycles roared past the church in tribute, two abreast. A block away, a gigantic American flag was spread out between the aerial buckets of two fire engines.

Police officers from throughout New Jersey, as well as Philadelphia, Newark and New York City gathered outside the church, waiting to enter.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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