‘That kind of guy’
The moment Brandon Aponte met Nelson Perdomo while working at East Jersey State Prison (EJSP) 14 years ago, he could tell he liked him. As Aponte will affirm, that’s the kind of guy Perdomo was – instantly likable with a vibrance that was infectious even within the walls of a correctional facility.
“Where we work, there can be a lot of bad situations,” Aponte explained. “But he could light up a room and make everyone go from sad and angry to laughing in a heartbeat. That’s the type of person he was.”
Correctional police officers like Aponte who worked with Perdomo now face the unforeseen challenge of adjusting to work at EJSP without the enthusiasm, laughter and light that Perdomo shared everywhere he went. For Aponte, additional pain comes from never getting to officially say goodbye before his best friend was taken to the hospital and placed on a ventilator in an induced coma. He eventually passed away from the novel coronavirus on April 9. Perdomo was 44 years old.
“It went from being able to talk to him on the daily basis to check up on him, to a blink of an eye, he was gone,” detailed Aponte, who was also Perdomo’s partner at EJSP for five years.
Perdomo, a State Corrections Local 105 member of 19 years, first immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador at age 3 with his family. He graduated from Elizabeth High School and later met his wife Franny in 1996. After the couple’s marriage in 2006, they started a family of their own, going on to have three children, Emma, Maya and Nelson, Jr.
It was clear from early on that Perdomo had a passion for the criminal justice system. But no matter how much he loved his job as a correctional police officer, everyone who worked with Perdomo knew that family came first.
“I’ll never forget how close he was with his family,” Aponte shared. “That’s all he ever talked about.”
Aponte feels lucky to have felt as close to family as he could get while working with Perdomo, becoming his close friend on and off the job. The loss of such a loved and respected officer also hits home for State Corrections Local 105 President William Sullivan, who got to know Perdomo’s unforgettable character while working at EJSP for 14 years.
“He was always making jokes and making people happy,” Sullivan insisted.
On April 12, Perdomo’s family was able to see just how loved their father and husband had been, when a procession of more than 400 police and correctional vehicles from law enforcement agencies across the state passed by Perdomo’s residence in Old Bridge. The cars passed with flashing lights and sirens as a State Police helicopter flew overhead. A solo bagpiper played close by as the line of cars paying tribute to Perdomo passed the house in an effort to show that though a lot has changed since the pandemic, the honor for an officer who died performing the job he loved remains just as strong.
“It was a bittersweet situation,” Aponte reflected. “His family was able to see what people really felt about him. A lot of people had a lot of love for him. Nelson was that kind of guy.”