Police from all over the tri-state area are descending on the South Jersey community of Lakewood this morning for the funeral of a police officer who was shot execution style during a routine traffic stop last week.
Authorities say officer Christopher Matlosz was patrolling a residential neighborhood when he stopped to speak to 19-year-old Jahmell Crockam.
According to witnesses, the conversation was non-confrontational and that there were no warning signs to the violent shooting that followed. The official autopsy report said Matlosz died from three gunshot wounds to the head.
At mid-morning, two-, three- and four-car delegations could be seen on the Garden State Parkway from the NYPD, Kent and Croton in New York.
Federal law enforcement cars were heading south as well.
From North Jersey, the Passaic County motorcycle unit was en route to Lakewood, as were lawmen in police cruisers from Haledon, Hudson County, UMDNJ and Sayreville.
Thousands of police officers are expected at the noon funeral.
Crockam has been charged with shooting Matlosz. He made a first court appearance on Tuesday but did not enter a plea.
Meanwhile, the Lakewood community held a candlelight vigil to pay tribute to Matlosz earlier this week.
Fellow Lakewood officer Gary Przewornik spoke at the ceremony as hundreds mourned the 27-year-old beloved fiancee and colleague.
"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," said Przewornik.
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."
Hundreds of officers from around the state lined the parking lot of a funeral home in Howell Township where the wake for Lakewood Patrolman Christopher Matlosz was being held Wednesday. The officer's funeral is Thursday.
A hundred uniformed officers wearing white gloves saluted in total silence as relatives of the slain officer were driven into the lot.
Other officers cried and hugged one another. Stephen Gibson, a state trooper who knew Matlosz for 12 years, said the officer asked him the day before he was killed to be part of his wedding party. Matlosz was to be married in April 2012.