ATLANTIC CITY — Tom McMeekin, of Atlantic City, was at the 200 Club of Atlantic and Cape May Counties’ 29th annual Memorial Service and Brunch in honor of fallen police officers, firefighters and rescue workers.
“I’m here for my son, who died in the line of duty,” said McMeekin at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. His son, Atlantic City Police Officer Thomas J. McMeekin Jr., was hit by a bus March 3, 2005, as he directed traffic around an accident scene. He died the next day.
“I can’t thank them enough for all they have done to keep his memory alive,” said his dad, a former Atlantic City firefighter. “It’s an honor to be here.”
The 200 Club assists the surviving family members of public safety personnel who are killed, said the event chairwoman, Vice President Ellen Loughney. She is a former Atlantic County Chief Assistant Prosecutor who is a Borgata attorney. The club helps financially and in other ways, she said, and the annual brunch is its biggest fundraiser.
McMeekin was one of more than 500 people who came to the Borgata after a memorial Mass at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, to honor valor award recipients and scholarship recipients, and to hear keynote speaker Capt. Raymond Dupuis, of the Watertown, Mass., Police Department.
Dupuis described the days after the Boston Marathon bombing, when his department engaged in a shootout with bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and handled the apprehension of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, found hiding in a boat in a backyard in Watertown.
“What my officers did was no more heroic than what people did who will get awards today,” Dupuis told the audience as he started his speech.
In the audience were Jeffrey and Terri Bauman, of Galloway Township, and their daughter, Courtney Bauman. The couple’s great-nephew, Jeffrey Bauman, then 27, lost his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. He was waiting for his girlfriend near the finish line April 15 when a man placed a package at his feet. It detonated moments later, critically injuring him.
Watertown is 4.1 square miles and has 32,000 residents, Dupuis said. His police department has 65 officers, down from 73 because of budget cuts.
Until the bombing case, he called it a quiet place to work in spite of being just across the Charles River from Boston.
The bombing killed three and wounded 264 people on April 15. Three days later, Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported its Police Officer Sean Collier was shot and killed. In what first appeared to be a separate case, a 2013 Mercedes SUV was reported carjacked in Boston, he said.
When officers spotted the SUV on a residential street in the evening, everything changed.
“Most shootouts last 3 to 5 seconds, and three to four shots are fired,” Dupuis said. “This one lasted 5.5 minutes, and 270 rounds were fired.” Some officers ran out of ammunition.
The brothers also set off several homemade bombs, but two never detonated, Dupuis said.
A transit officer who came to help was critically wounded when a bullet opened his femoral artery, but he survived. Many officers and residents were lucky, Dupuis said. After it was all over, bullet holes were found in a driver’s head rest in one police car, meaning the bullet grazed the officer’s head; they were also found in homes around the area.
It ended with Tamerlan Tsarnaev dead and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the run, only to be caught within 24 hours.
Dupuis said the event taught his department a lot.
“It changed our thinking,” Dupuis said. Officers now carry three rounds of ammunition rather than two with them, and there is more of an emphasis on wearing protective vests. He also encourages more training with automatic rifles, because two officers couldn’t get theirs to work during the shootout.
“Don’t ever say it can’t happen here,” he told the audience. “That’s what we used to say: ‘Nothing happens in our town.’”
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