LAKEWOOD – As he made his way down the list of names, his pace slowed, his voice choked. At one point he needed a moment to compose himself. The room was silent, everyone’s eyes on retired Bay Head police chief William Dikun. It’s a list no one wants to read. A list that’s been read for the last 27 years.
Dikun, the chief police instructor at the Ocean County Police Academy, was reading the list of 18 names, men and women – law enforcement – who died in the line of duty. The list is read at the annual Ocean County Law Enforcement Memorial Day Observance, held at the academy every year, attended by police officers, county officials, and this year, State Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.
“We get together in ceremonies like this across the country to remember those brave men and women that we’ve lost, to mourn them, to honor them, and we honor them because they’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Grewal said. “We honor them because they ran to danger when others ran away. We honor them because they work tirelessly, tirelessly to rid our streets of criminals and to help people suffering from addiction…We honor them because they are our family members, our friends, our partners, our colleagues.
“…I say that one death of a law enforcement officer in the line of duty is one death too many. These 19 officers span generations, from 1927 to 2015. Even though they span and served in different generations, they had something in common, and that was that they were bound by a common purpose: to protect us, and to keep us safe,” Grewal added.
More than 21,000 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty since the founding of the United States, the state attorney general said.
Freeholder Gerry Little, who attended with fellow Freeholder Virginia Haines, thanked Grewal for his first official visit to the county as state attorney general.
“When you leave, I hope you hear one message from all of us here in Ocean County: we are exceedingly proud of our law enforcement community, and we here in Ocean County, we will have their backs always. We support them, and we believe they are second-to-none anywhere in the state of New Jersey,” Little said.
Also in attendance were Police Academy director Brian Klimakowski, Ocean County Chiefs of Police Association president Karin DiMichele, county Prosecutor Joseph Coronato, Sheriff Michael Mastronardy and chaplain James Occhipinti.
Those remembered, and their end of watch, are:
Cpl. Scott R. Thompson, Manchester Township Police Department, EOW April 10, 2015
Det. John Scott Stevens, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, EOW Jan. 21, 2015
Det. Tina E. Rambo, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, EOW Aug. 1, 2011
Officer Christopher A. Matlosz, Lakewood Police Department, EOW Jan. 14, 2011
Officer Jason Marles, Ocean Gate Police Department, EOW Nov. 25, 2010
Officer William Preslar, Lakewood Police Department, EOW May 14, 2007
Officer Robert Ventura, Jackson Township Police Department, EOW March 18, 2001
Officer John Lesemann, Brick Police Department, EOW Aug. 30, 1999
Officer Larry Dunfee Jr., Stafford Township Police Department, EOW April 27, 1981
Officer Richard Harper, Brick Police Department, EOW May 4, 1978
Officer Robert Tobias, Manchester Township Police Department, EOW May 17, 1975
Chief Angelo Leonetti, Long Beach Township Police Department, EOW March 6, 1962
Trooper Raymond Fiola, EOW Feb. 19, 1962
Officer Hartley Richter, Lakewood Police Department, EOW April 8, 1946
Marshal Arnold Johnson, Point Pleasant Police Department, EOW July 22, 1928
Trooper John Ressler, EOW May 1, 1932
Trooper Leonard McCandless, EOW June 28, 1931
Trooper First Class Joseph Smith, EOW Aug. 4, 1927