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More than 1,000 people, including law enforcement officers from Pennsylvania and Ohio, gathered Wednesday to pay their last respects to Shenango Township officer Jerry McCarthy, 60, who was killed last week during a car chase with an erratic driver.
Emotions ran high as family members of McCarthy arrived at St. Vitus Church in New Castle. His wife was surrounded by family as she walked into the church as the sound of bagpipes filled the air.
Then the body of the Shenango Township officer killed in the line of duty followed.
McCarthy was a husband and father of two sons, one daughter, a stepson and a stepdaughter.
Hundreds of his fellow officers, including Michael Lynch, who was in the car with McCarthy at the time of the crash, lined the streets to pay their final respects to a man everyone loved.
“Jerry was a wonderful man. His heart was open to everybody. There wasn’t anyone who didn’t walk away feeling good about themselves,” said former Lawrence County District Attorney Kathy Birtalan. “He was one in a million. And all the police officers, if they model themselves after the way Jerry lived they would be excellent police officers. Gerry was a wonderful, wonderful man, officer, family member. I can’t say enough about what a good guy he was.”
Matthew Koza never met the fallen officer because the 20-year-old autistic man lives more than 100 miles south of New Castle in Scottdale, Pa. He dreams of one day being a police officer and wanted to honor the fallen policeman in person.
“To let him know how sorry I am,” Koza said.
For those attendees who were not inside the church, speakers were set up so they could hear the service. McCarthy’s son, Michael, delivered the eulogy.
“Man, we all miss you,” Michael said.
He read a letter he addressed to his dad in Heaven.
“Have you seen great grandma or great grandpa yet? What about Elvis?,” Michael said.
While Michael brought some laughter through the tears, his words described a hero.
“You made a difference buddy. You made a big difference,” he said.
After the funeral, a large procession began heading to McCarthy’s final resting place at Crestview Memorial Cemetery in Grove City. The procession left the church, then headed for the Shenango Township Police Department for a final pass by.
Hundreds of police officers, firefighters, and emergency personnel rode in the procession. Businesses posted messages in honor of the fallen officer, and many residents lined the route to pay their respects as well.
“I feel it’s absolutely important to pay our respects to Officer McCarthy and all the men and women who are serving to protect us each and every day. They put their lives out on the line. The least we can do is be out here for the families and the fellow officers who are mourning for this,” said Michael Szalankiewicz of New Castle, who was one of the spectators.
During that procession, a ceremonial end of watch call and request for a moment of silence was broadcast over area police frequencies.
McCarthy was a law enforcement officer in Grove City for more than 30 years. He worked in the Lawrence County district attorney’s office as a detective and humane agent after retiring. He also worked as a part-time patrolman for Shenango Township.
Kylee Barletto, 25, of New Castle, is facing 71 years in prison on a variety of charges. She is scheduled for an extradition hearing Thursday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.