The accused killer of a Lakewood police officer made a first appearance in court today represented by a public defender but the suspect indicated that he might seek a private attorney.
No plea was entered in this firs appearance and when asked if he understood his rights, Jahmell Crockam, 19, simply said "yes." Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Ford said she will seek to have bail continued at $5 million.
Officer Christopher Matlosz was the first Ocean County officer shot to death while on duty in recent memory. He was just 27 years old.
About 300 relatives, friends and strangers laid flowers and candles before a Lakewood Police cruiser bearing pictures of Matlosz at a candlelight vigil last night in Lakewood.
"He was a very good guy," said Joanne Haytas whose husband knew Matlosz from work. "Always smiling and very well liked."
John Stillwell, a Retired Lakewood Policeman, said "Sometimesits just a handshake and a hug and you just feel each other's heart and you hug each other. "
Authorities say Matlosz was patrolling a residential neighborhood when he stopped to speak to Crockam.
According to witnesses, the conversation was non-confrontational and that there were no warning signs to the violent shooting that followed.
Fellow Lakewood officer Gary Przewornik spoke at the vigil. "For those of us lucky enough to have known Chris. You would know that he loved his job and he loved his fiance Kelly. That's a pretty great combination."
Officers from other departments also attended the vigil as a sign of solidarity, including officer Campbell Brown of the Jackson Police Department.
"I thought it was important to support our brothers," said Brown, "and to support Chris and his family."
Armed members of the SWAT team surrounded the square, keeping a watchful eye over the crowd. The search for Crockam apparently upset leadership of the Bloods gang and according to sources led to an order to their members to kill other cops. Officer Matlosz's colleague and best friend says that knowledge is unsettling.
"Some people are worried," said Officer Edgardo Vega after a long pause. "But this is what we signed up for."