PERTH AMBOY – The city mourned a fallen police officer Monday. Officer Thomas Raji was killed in an early Friday morning car accident while he was transporting a prisoner.
Raji’s body was carried to Holy Spirit Church on a horse-drawn caisson followed by a rider-less horse with two boots turned backwards in the stirrups. Hundreds of police officers lined the street to pay their respects. Eight of Raji’s fellow officers carried the coffin into the church, while Raji’s widow followed behind.
A police bagpipe and drum corps played as the body was carried out of the church after the funeral. Three police helicopters flew overhead and the coffin was once again placed on the caisson to be taken to Alpine Cemetery. The procession to the cemetery was lead by 60 police motorcycles.
Mayor Wilda Diaz said the city was “gathered to say good-bye to one of Perth Amboy’s finest, and to celebrate the life of a hero.” She noted Raji was the first city officer to die in the line of duty.
“You can see in the 32 years he’s been alive how many lives he’s touched,” said his brother-in-law, Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr., speaking to reporters. “He left a large impact, a huge impact. He served as a huge example to everyone.”
“Officer Raji was well-respected among his colleagues as well as the men, women and children that he encountered on a daily basis as he performed his duties,” said Police Chief and Director Michael Kohut, who also extended his sympathy to the family. “He was dependable and someone that I looked toward to keep our community safe.”
Officer Thomas Raji, 31, was driving his cruiser south on Route 1 at 3:45 a.m. when he was hit by a Nissan Altima traveling west on Green Street, authorities said. Raji was pronounced dead at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick about an hour after the crash, authorities said.
A second officer, Patrolman Matthew Mercurio, was riding in the front passenger seat. He was seriously injured, suffering broken ribs, and was also taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, according to authorities. The prisoner was not seriously injured, authorities said.
“You’re not anticipating something like this when you’re doing a simple transport,” Kohut said Sunday. “It just goes to show you, when you leave your house you don’t know what’s going to happen to you.”
Colonia resident Sean McGurik, 23, was driving the Altima, according to authorities. He was not injured and was not charged in the accident.
The officers were transporting a 37-year-old man from the Rahway Police Department to the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center in New Brunswick. He had been arrested in Rahway on an outstanding warrant from Perth Amboy Municipal Court, authorities said.
Raji was a 10-year police veteran. He had received several commendations for police work. Last month, he helped save a suicidal person atop the Victory Bridge, police said. Raji is survived by his wife, Marisol, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child. He is also survived by two step-children, two stepchildren, Devyn Nicole and Gabriel Anthony.
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