Law enforcement and public officials in Lakewood turn to dealing with grief after the arrest of a suspect in connection with the shooting of one of their own.
A candlelight vigil Monday night will honor a New Jersey police officer shot dead over the weekend in a violent event that touched off a 2-day manhunt and an outpouring of grief from his colleagues and family.
The officer's grieving fiancee today said that she knew he was helping with the manhunt -- from heaven.
While behind the wheel of his patrol car, Lakewood Officer Christopher Matlosz, 27, was fatally shot in the head Friday night, sparking a massive search for his killer. An informant's tip led authorities Sunday to arrest a suspected Bloods gang member.
Matlosz had just been transferred from the night shift a week ago and was engaged to be married next year.
"I knew Chris was helping his brothers from heaven find his killer the whole time and that's how I knew they would find him,' said Kelly Walsifer, in a new statement printed in the Asbury Park Press.
"It doesn't bring him back, but it gives me comfort to know he finished his job in spirit and can rest in peace," she wrote. "Chris was the best friend I could have and the memories of good times are endless."
A viewing is set for Wednesday and his funeral will be held Thursday.
Just over 38 hours after Matlosz was gunned down behind the wheel of his patrol car, a 15-member task force of State Police and U.S. Marshals officers surrounded an apartment where a tipster told police they could find the suspect, Jahmell W. Crockam.
Crockam is due in court for a first appearance on Tuesday.
Lawmen from multiple agencies were involved in the hunt for Crockam, and the source indicates that the gang reacted to intense pressure its members got to turn on one of their own. Thus, lawmen believe, the order to kill more police.
On Saturday, police signed murder charges against Crockam, whom they accuse of killing Matlosz, who had driven up beside him and started to question him.
Lakewood Police earlier confirmed that there was a previous warrant out for Crockam's arrest from Dec. 29th, for possession of a rifle and hallow point bullets. Bail for Crockam has been set to $5 million, cash.
Matlosz, a 27-year-old from Toms River, was shot in the head and rushed to Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune where he was pronounced dead.
The officer was questioning Crockam when he pulled a handgun from his clothing and fired three bullets into the officer in what the county prosecutor called "a heinous, execution-style killing.''
"This is a terrible tragedy, and our hearts and prayers go out to Officer Matlosz's family, friends, fellow officers and the entire New Jersey law enforcement community,'' Gov. Chris Christie said Friday.
While the suspect fled on foot, a neighbor called 911 at 4:07 p.m. to report an officer down. Matlosz was rushed to Jersey Shore University Medical Center, where he died in the trauma unit at 4:54 p.m. He is survived by his mother and a brother.
The bounty for the arrest of Crockam quickly soared to $130,000 after the FBI gave $50,000. The State Policeman's Benevolent Association offered up a $40,000 reward, and Borough of Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliugh and the Avalon Police Department announced they contributed $1,000 to the reward fund for information leading to the arrest.
"Every year we lose police officers in this country and so many of their losses are just like this one: routine, nonviolent situations'' that suddenly turn deadly, Ford said. ``Now it hits home. This is the risk every officer takes when he put on the badge.''
Matlosz joined the department Aug. 14, 2006, and had just transferred to the evening shift after more than three years on the midnight shift, police Chief Robert Lawson said. He lived in nearby Manchester Township.
"Chris was one of our most popular officers,'' the chief 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.''
Before joining the Lakewood Police Department, Matlosz worked as a police officer in Englishtown, a Monmouth County suburb, and as a Class 2 special police officer in Freehold Township, Manasquan and Long Branch on the Jersey shore.
He graduated from Howell Township High School and earned his degree in criminal justice from Brookdale College in 2004.
His death was the second shooting incident 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 that resulted in a gun battle.
Three other officers were shot but received lesser injuries. A suspect in that case faces attempted murder charges.