Suspect arrested in murder of NJ police officer

January 16, 2011 6:44:04 AM PST
Police arrested a 19-year-old suspect Sunday morning in the murder of a New Jersey police officer, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office said.

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

He was arrested without incident in Camden on Sunday morning, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The suspect had already been returned to Lakewood, where he was being held Sunday morning. He is expected to be brought before a judge on Tuesday. A judge has already 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 to release details of the arrest at an 11 a.m. news conference.

Crockam, whose street name is "Sav," -- short for "Savage" -- had 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 had been searching for him since the shooting Friday at 4 p.m.

Authorities have said 27-year-old Matlosz drove up to Crockam as Crockam was walking and began speaking with him in a non-confrontational 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.

Crockam had been a fugitive since December 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 Matlosz knew of the arrest warrant or whether that was why he approached Crockam and began talking to him Friday afternoon.

Matlosz had been 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 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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