- Associated Press - Sunday, January 16, 2011

LAKEWOOD, N.J. (AP) — Police arrested a 19-year-old suspect Sunday morning in the fatal shooting of a New Jersey police officer, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Jahmell W. Crockam is accused of shooting Lakewood Patrolman Christopher Matlosz on Friday afternoon after the officer drove up to him and began to question him.

Mr. Crockam was arrested in a Camden apartment without incident at 6:30 a.m. by state police and a fugitive task force from the U.S. Marshal’s Office, according to Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford.

She said detectives got information that Crockam had fled to Camden and was hiding in a unit of the Crestbury Apartments on South Eighth Street. Officers raided the apartment and took him into custody.

“This concludes a massive effort by law enforcement to apprehend a person we feel is responsible for the death of Officer Matlosz,” Ms. Ford said. “The arrest of this suspect now allows the Lakewood Police Department and the family and friends of Officer Matlosz an opportunity to grieve, to give tribute to their colleague, friend and loved one.”

Mr. Crockam was charged Saturday with murder and weapons offenses.

The suspect was returned to Lakewood, where he was being held Sunday morning. He is expected to be brought before a judge on Tuesday. A judge already has set bail for him at $5 million, with no opportunity to post 10 percent of that amount in cash to gain his release.

Authorities plan an 11 a.m. news conference to discuss the arrest.

“Our thoughts first and foremost are for the officer’s family; hopefully, this will let the healing begin,” said Deputy Mayor Steven Langert. “It was an atrocious crime. Any time you have a crime of this magnitude, it’s a shock to every civilized person out there.

“We’re all grateful he was arrested as quickly as he was,” Mr. Langert said. “Life will be changed forever for the officer’s family and for all of Lakewood. We need to feel that for each other.”

The prosecutor also credited tips from the public with helping locate the suspect.

Mr. Crockam, whose street name is “Sav” — short for “Savage” — fled to Camden, a poor city on the opposite side of the state, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. A dragnet encompassing at least three states and more than 100 officers searched for him after the shooting Friday at 4 p.m.

Authorities have said 27-year-old Officer Matlosz drove up to Mr. Crockam as Mr. Crockam was walking and began speaking with him in a nonconfrontational manner when the suspect suddenly stepped back, pulled out a handgun and shot the officer three times.

The suspect fled on foot, touching off a massive house-to-house search that involved armored vehicles, officers clad in body armor, teams of search dogs and helicopters.

Mr. Crockam had been a fugitive since Dec. 29, when the prosecutor’s office obtained an arrest warrant for him on charges of possessing an illegal rifle and hollow-point bullets. It was not immediately clear whether Officer Matlosz knew of the arrest warrant or whether that was why he approached Mr. Crockam and began talking to him Friday afternoon.

Officer Matlosz was on the Lakewood police force for four years and was engaged to be married next year.

His fiancee, Kelly Walsifer, issued a statement expressing her devastation over Officer Matlosz’s death, which came about four months after the death of his father.

“Chris was my best friend and soul mate. We did everything together. In the last 4 years, we both lived our life to the fullest,” the statement said. “He was my life and my world. He made me laugh, he made others laugh, and we have been surrounded by the best of friends and co-workers throughout our time together.”

The statement continued: “He just lost his father and now it brings me some peace to know that he is with him.”

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