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Suspect in Cop Death, Still At Large, Is Charged With Murder

Jahmell Crockam, 19, is accused of killing Lakewood officer who graduated Howell High School and lived in Manchester.

Police have filed murder and weapons charges against the suspect in the Friday shooting death of a Lakewood police officer - even though he's still at large.

Jahmell Crockam, 19, is accused of killing Chris Matlosz, a 27-year-old Lakewood police officer from Manchester who was a Howell High School alumnus.

Matlosz was engaged to be married when he was shot three times Friday afternoon, authorities said.

Helicopters armed with spotlights have been flying over wooded areas in northwestern Brick Township, and the Ramtown section of Howell, as police search for 19-year-old Jahmell Crockam.

Matlosz was pronounced dead at Jersey Shore Medical Center shortly before 5 p.m., said Marlene Lynch Ford, Ocean County prosecutor.

Matlosz's fiance was at the hospital when he died, Ford said. He is survived by his brother and mother.

Ford said a "massive" manhunt was underway to find Crockam, who was last believed to be heading toward Howell Township late afternoon on Friday.

The state Policeman's Benevolent Association is offering a $40,000 reward for any information that leads to Crockam's arrest.

Lanes Mills Road in Lakewood and Joe Parker Boulevard were closed Friday night, and Brick Police Capt. John Rein said officers from Brick assisted initially at the scene in Lakewood "in a variety of different aspects."

The suspect was described as a black male in his early 20s or late teens, about 5 foot 6 to 7 inches tall. He had a stocky build, Ford said, and was wearing a black "hoodie." He had puffy cheeks and sunken eyes, Ford said.

A witness also said he was wearing black baggy jeans and gray boxer shorts that were exposed.

Neighbors described Matlosz and a man who was always at the ready to serve his community.

"He'd have done anything for anybody," said Bob Pitre, a friend and neighbor who lived near Matlosz since the officer moved to the Pine Lake Park section of Manchester over two years ago. "He always wanted to help people. He was polite, never had enemies."

Matlosz had a love of animals and had two dogs, one of which was an abused pit bull he rescued and nursed back to health, Bob Pitre said. 

Neighbor Tracy Pitre recalled the days before Matlosz proposed to his fiance. "He came over here when he bought the ring," she said. "He was so excited. They were great together."

Bob Pitre said that he and Matlosz would often get together to work on their cars. Matlosz had recently purchased a Corvette that he was restoring.

"He was always joking that his car was going to run circles around mine," Bob Pitre said. "It's not going to be the same without him on our street."

One of his childhood friends, Chris Deakyne, said Matlosz's becoming a police officer was a lifelong dream. "Everybody knew that he wanted to be a cop," Deakyne said. "I remember him talking about it in middle school. The fact that somebody would want to do this to such a good guy is a travesty."

Deakyne described his old friend as someone who, "never had any enemies," and "got along with everybody." Having shared the basketball court with Matlosz since they were in third grade, Deakyne summed up his thoughts by saying, "The world just lost a great guy!" 

A tribute page was set up for Matlosz at http://tinyurl.com/4kof5o4. Facebook tributes to the fallen officer were pouring in overnight; some users changed their profile photos to that of the Lakewood police insigna, with a black armband stretched across.

"Our hearts go out to the Lakewood Police Department and his family," Ford told reporters at a press conference at police headquarters.

The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals, New Jersey State Police and various departments from Monmouth and Ocean County are aiding in the investigation, said Mike Mohel, public information officer for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

Matlosz was a member of the department since 2006, according to Ford. He was formerly a police officer in Englishtown, and was a special officer in Long BranchManasquan and Freehold.

He graduated from Howell High School in 2001 and received his associates degree from Brookdale in 2004.

The shooting occurred during a routine traffic stop that became "hostile" on August Drive in Lakewood, Ford said.

Matlosz, 27, of the Pine Lake Park section of Manchester, was on a routine patrol and in his police vehicle when the suspect whom he was talking to then took a step back, pulled a gun and shot Matlosz three times at close range in the head, Ford said.

“This is a particularly heinous, execution-style shooting,” Ford said.

A 911 call was placed by a witness at 4:07 p.m., Ford said, and Matlosz was transported to Jersey Shore Medical Center and pronounced dead at 4:54 p.m.

“Matlosz’s gun was still holstered - that’s how quickly it all happened,” Ford said, adding that the officer was seated in his police car at the time of the shooting.

Robert Lawson, Lakewood police chief, called Matlosz one of the best-liked officers in the department who willingly worked late-shifts.

"He was dedicated to his job," Lawson said. "He was a popular officer. You might say he was the best of us, an outstanding all around officer."

Lawson added that Matlosz received many letters of thanks from residents he had helped during his four years in Lakewood.

He had only been on the evening shift for one week, previously working the midnight shift, Lawson said.

Asked about the shooter, Ford said: "We have someone who has no soul."

Ford said that, although police die in the line of duty every year elsewhere, "what is sickening to us is that it hits home."

Sgt. Peter Cooke, an Englishtown Police Department officer who worked with Matlosz, said learning about Matlosz's death was “surreal.” Matlosz worked in Englishtown from October 2004 to August 2006.

“We are a small police force here in Englishtown. Even though Chris no longer worked here, it is still like losing a member of our family,” he said in a statement. “This hit us very hard.”

Cooke said that officers from his department remained close with Matlosz. “This has been pretty hard on everyone here.”

Cooke said Matlosz was a “dedicated, hard working officer, and just an all-around good guy.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Lakewood Police Department at 732-363-0200 or the Ocean County Prosecutors Office at 732-929-2027.

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