Honoring The Fallen
Chris Matlosz had many friends; now, he has many more
They've seen people die. That's what happens when you're a police officer. You see the worst of things. Or so you think, until another surprise comes your way.
Few officers see one of their own die - not on duty.
Never, some said, did they think this could happen here.
Never did they think it could happen to a guy like Chris Matlosz. He was a guy with a fiancee, a graduate of Howell High School in 2001. He had a Facebook page, with pictures. He was a cop who was friendly, and a friend to many.
But there they were, lined up deep into the parking lot of the Lakewood Funeral Home, hundreds of them waiting for hours to see Matlosz, who was shot and killed on Friday.
There they were, to see a man who was shot three times in the head, for reasons unknown. Even the most jaded observers, those who study crime, have had a hard time explaining this.
He was from the Jersey Shore, a place that's usually tranquil, with beaches and seas that are pleasantly deserted in the winter. He was from Howell, a town with Route 9 roadside stores with signs that say "Pooltown Pools" and "Shoes $5 and Up."
He died near Howell, last Friday, down the road from the Lakewood Funeral Home, where a large American flag hung from a ladder truck Wednesday night, as the hundreds of mourners lined up.
A lane on Route 9 southbound was closed, forcing cars to slow to a crawl, letting the mourners cross the normally busy road, hang their heads, and walk in, peacefully.
As they walked in, they saw helmeted officers, holding large guns at their chest, standing watch.
Many of the mourners were citizens, wearing Giants football jackets, jackets and ties or long overcoats. Just as many were police, wearing the Lakewood color of blue, or they wore black or some other color from some other town far away.
When they saw each other, they shook hands. Or they saluted, moving their hand slowly toward the brim of their cap.
There, they saw pictures of Matlosz and his girlfriend, Kelly Walsifer, one after another, flashing up on a computer screen. In almost every picture, Matlosz is smiling, If he's not smiling, he's hamming it up, being playful.
In so many of the pictures, he's standing near the beach, wearing an LBI sweatshirt, or just smiling in front of a setting sun. The sky is pink, blue and gray, and the waves are crashing behind him. Peacefully.
At the end of the slideshow was this: "Only the good die young."
They saw a poem that talked about a man "who's first name is Chris...he could light up a room.. something we'll all miss."
There were flowers against the wall, from police forces, businesses and individuals who know this story. They're feeling hurt by this story, and wondering why.
"Even a guy like me, who's jaded about Jersey City, is shocked," an undercover Jersey City cop told me.
He was one of the hundreds who came between 4 and 9 p.m. Wednesday. Once it was over, he was walking hurriedly back to his car, one of many that lined the side of Route 9 southbound.
He said he wears a beard because he's an undercover cop; no one can recognize him. He couldn't give me his name, because he'd lose his cover. But he thought about it, because he wanted to say something, anything that would make sense of this.
"Unfortunately, we've seen it happen in Jersey City a little too much," he said. "But it's still always a shock."
He lives in the Howell area because he wanted to. He thought he could hide here. Now he's not sure.
"There's no way I'd live in Jersey City," he said. "That's why I live here."