MILLVILLE — Hundreds of blue-clad law-enforcement officers descended on the city Friday to give a final salute and farewell to a brother office killed in the line of duty.
Outside Lakeside Middle School, officers standing crisply at attention smartly snapped salutes as the casket containing city police Officer Christopher Reeves was carried from the building and placed on an antique fire engine.
A pipe and drum band played “Going Home” and then the Marine Corps hymn as the 40-year-old Reeves, a former U.S. Marine and city firefighter, left for his final resting place at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
There, Reeves’ family, including his wife, Susan, who also is a member of the Millville Police Department, was given the folded flag that earlier covered his casket. Reeves was buried in the Civil War-era graveyard near several cedar and walnut trees.
Reeves died in a car accident shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday at Third and Broad streets. The accident occurred when the vehicle driven by Commercial Township resident Timothy Seidel collided with the police cruiser Reeves was using to give new police Office Jonathan Seidel a tour of the city, authorities have said.
Jonathan Seidel, who is not related to Timothy Seidel, underwent surgery Monday for injuries he suffered in the crash.
Timothy Seidel, 23, who was also injured, has been charged with two counts of aggravated manslaughter and single counts of eluding, vehicular homicide and aggravated assault. He is being held on $500,000 bail.
Authorities said Timothy Seidel also will be charged with various motor vehicle offenses. Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said Friday those charges should be filed shortly.
The dozens of accompanying police, fire and civilian vehicles took more than 18 minutes to file slowly into the cemetery, lights flashing but sirens off. They entered underneath a large American flag held aloft by two Millville Fire Department ladder trucks at the cemetery’s Chestnut Street entrance.
The short grave-side service began at about 2:50 p.m. and was witnessed by a crowd that included several hundred uniformed officers. Three officers gave Reeves a nine-gun salute and, following a helicopter flyover, a solitary bagpiper played “Taps” while two Marines folded the flag that draped the casket.
Then, as the bagpiper played “Amazing Grace,” officers filed past the powder-blue casket one, two and three at a time. They each stopped in front of the grave, turned and slowly raised an arm in salute. Turning, they walked away. It took 15 minutes for the officers to file past.
Reeves burial ended a long and emotional day for the officers, many of whom traveled hours to get here from other states. Some shed tears when Reeves’ casket was carried from the school.
The events went pretty much according to schedule, even though the ceremonies were ones that people wished were not necessary.
City Commissioner David Vanaman called Reeves’ death a “tragic loss to the city of Millville. He was truly one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met.”
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, called Reeves a role model for anyone who wants to be a police officer or a first responder.
“We should have a new appreciation for what police officers and first responders do for us,” he said.
Other people who arrived for Reeves’ viewing said his death was a loss for the community.
Reeves’ neighbor Shaun McGoldrick worked with Reeves for a time when both were corrections officers at the Cumberland County jail. They helped each other clean up their properties from the June 30 storm.
“He was a good father,” McGoldrick said. “He was a good husband.”
Downtown businesses on Friday honored the police officer who was nicknamed “Superman,” as Reeves had a name similar to the actor who portrayed the superhero in movies.
B.J. Roasters on High Street sported a poster in its window reading “In Memory of Chris Reeves/True Blue.”
“He would get a whole chicken with sweet-potato fries,” said Julie Pacitto, one of the store’s operators. “He loved sweet-potato fries and mashed sweet potatoes.”
Friday’s viewing, memorial service, burial and processions ended days of planning by city police and different law-enforcement agencies. Mayor Tim Shannon said city workers were essentially on standby to provide whatever was necessary to help the proceedings run smoothly.
The events forced the closing of parts of major city streets, such as Sharp, High and Main streets, at various times. But the ceremony overshadowed everything.
Officers, many with black bands covering their badges, started mustering in the Lakeside parking lot by 10 a.m.
All noise in the parking lot ended when someone barked the order, “Millville police officers, stand by.” All eyes turned to the men and women of the city’s Police Department, who quietly marched double file into the school. They were led by police Chief Thomas Haas, who earlier in the morning was so overcome by emotion that he could at times barely speak.
Haas would eventually ask television crews if they would share some footage of their coverage so the department can make a special video for Reeves’ 2-year-old son, Alexander.
Police from other departments patrolled the municipality and worked dispatch while city police attended Reeves’ viewing, memorial service and burial.
Detective Alexander Negrin, of the Elizabeth Police Department, said the department’s honor squad was honored to make the trip.
“He’s a fellow officer,” Negrin said. “We honor those who have fallen in the line of duty.”
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