A Special Section Honoring National Police Week
Stories by Mitchell Krugel, Esther Gonzales, Dan Campana, Brittany Krugel and Debbie Rosen
Special Photography by Ed Carattini Jr.
Where there’s the Wall, there’s a way
Relentless effort and a final push from the NJSPBA finally get the name of Somerset County Sheriff’s Officer Ron Yeager inscribed at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial
By Mitchell Krugel
Kneeling at the wall, Russ Yeager perhaps heard the words from his father louder and clearer than ever.
“Never stop. Keep fighting. Never give up,” Ron Yeager instilled in his oldest boy, who followed his larger-than-life footsteps into a prodigious law enforcement career.
The Police Unity Tour had just rolled into the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. And here at the Memorial wall, Russ bowed to the amazing journey. Not just the 300-plus miles that the 2,000 riders – including Somerset County Sheriff and retired NJSPBA State Delegate Darrin Russo – endured, but the 22 years it took to get here.
On July 10, 2000, Somerset County Sheriff’s Detective and PBA State Delegate Ronald J. Yeager was alerted by an on-call pager that he needed to report to work early to process an arrest. By 7:30 a.m., Yeager, dressed in uniform, jumped in his personal vehicle and headed to work. His car was struck by a Jeep Cherokee that ran a stop sign in Piscataway and Yeager was killed.
For many reasons that are hard to explain and even harder to justify, the loss of Yeager was not deemed an official line-of-duty death. For more than 20 years, repeated efforts led by retired Somerset County Sheriff’s Office Acting Chief and now Undersheriff Tim Pino to do so hit so many frustrating barriers.
Finally, finally, finally, with a huge lift from NJSPBA President Pat Colligan, a big push from Russo and an unexpected break in the case, Ronald Yeager’s name was inscribed on the wall for National Police Week 2022. Moments after the Tour finished, Russo joined Russ at the wall to make an etching of Ron’s name and share some tears.
The next night, Pino joined them at the annual Candlelight Vigil to hear Colligan recite “Ronald J. Yeager.” And shed a few more tears. Tears of sadness, of course, but also some tears of joy over how far they had come just to get here.
“For 22 years, there’s a lot of tears. I think it goes for all cops that when you have an open wound, it’s something you don’t talk about. But you know it’s there. You see it in their faces,” confided Russ, who retired as a Fanwood Sergeant in 2014 and was a Fanwood Local 123 member for 25 years. “And when you walk up to that wall and see the name, that was the real strong one. Then you go to the Vigil and you’re listening to 619 names and then your father’s one of them, it’s a very, very powerful feeling. And I think it finally put him at rest. And put me at rest.”
Ron served as Pino’s FTO at Somerset County Sheriff’s. They were partners for a few years and Pino was one of many who looked at Ron as a big brother or even father figure.
So standing with Sheriff Russo and Russ among the other 40,000 gathered at the National Mall for the Vigil seemed to culminate the emotion of the past 22 years for Pino.
“It was almost surreal, because this was 22 years ago, and even in our agency, there’s only maybe three or four officers remaining that actually knew him from that long ago,” Pino expounded. “So to be standing there when that was finally happening, I think part of me was like, ‘Yeah, this is what we wanted.’ I’m glad I got to see it to fruition. I’m glad I got to work side by side with Sheriff Russo and Russ to make it happen. We never gave up on it.”
Ron was known throughout Dunellen, where he started on the job and raised his family, and Somerset County as a hard-nosed, fair man who had a propensity for mathematics and for helping young people pursue careers in law enforcement. Russ recalls a few trips to the woodshed with his dad, where he taught him lessons like always giving people a chance to right their wrongs, finding the good in people and being professional.
When Russ came on the job in Fanwood, he carried on his dad’s legacy of befriending the town’s merchants he met while on patrol. Like Ron, Russ was prone to stop in and see those characters like Lenny the baker at three in the morning when working midnights.
“You hear the term in law enforcement, he was a cop’s cop,” Pino described. “He was a gentle giant, but somebody you definitely wanted to have as a partner. He knew the game. And he definitely taught me a lot of good things about what I needed to do on the street to be a good officer.”
Ron served in the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy, Air National Guard and Army National Guard. He was in Vietnam. He was in uniform for 40 years. He knew how to serve and the importance of serving, and he also left that as a legacy.
“My dad put up a bunch of people for the job that he thought would be good cops,” Russ related. “He trained them, and they became other officers in other departments.”
On July 10, 2000, Russ was working when he received a call to report to the chief’s office as soon as possible. When he arrived, his lieutenant and sergeant were also waiting, and “my first thought was to ask for a PBA attorney,” he recalled. “And they’re like, ‘No, it’s not that.’”
The drove Russ to the scene of the accident.
“When I got to the scene, the cops had the same look I had when I told people about their relatives and loved ones,” he noted.
His mother, Maureen, was working at the Piscataway Board of Education at the time. Russ had to tell her what happened.
“That scream pretty much haunted me for about five years,” Russ added.
That it wouldn’t be declared a line of duty death didn’t occur to anybody at the time. Ron was paged to report to work early. He was in full uniform.
Speculation raised a question that the sheriff’s office administration might have retaliated against Ron because he was a PBA State Delegate. A new administration came in and relented to put Ron on the Somerset County memorial wall.
Pino and Bobby Mulligan, another Somerset County Sheriff’s officer, then made several attempts to have Ron’s name added to the national memorial. A third and a fourth effort couldn’t convince the powers that be to do the right thing, but Pino was not deterred.
“It was actually Ron’s attitude. He wouldn’t have given up if it was one of us,” Pino explained about his motivation to keep trying. “I knew in my mind if Washington, D.C. keeps hearing from Tim Pino, they’re going to get tired of hearing from Tim Pino. It might take five years, 10 years, 20 years, 40 years. At some point we’ll get what we want.”
When Summit Detective Matthew Tarantino was killed in a vehicle accident on the way to work in June 2017 and it was called a line-of-duty death, Pino finally had a breakthrough. Then-Summit Chief Andrew Bartolotti, who had since retired, stepped into lend a hand. Pino also credited Dunellen Local 146 State Delegate Joe Dudley for providing his eternal optimism that this was going to happen.
At the same time, Russo was elected Somerset County Sheriff. He had known Ron when Russo was a young officer. His wife also went to high school with Russ. So it was now even more personal.
“Along comes an actual street cop named Darrin Russo. He’s honest. He’s loyal to his men,” Russ praised. “And as soon as this came across his desk, he goes, ‘We have to right this wrong.’”
Pino shared that the final piece of the puzzle proved to be Russo’s old Franklin Township Local 154 protégé, Pat Colligan. The NJSPBA president connected with some sources he knew with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
They finally had all the evidence and resources they needed. The pandemic turned out to be the last setback, but a couple of months ago the letter finally came to Russ that Ron’s name would be added to the wall.
When Russo heard, he could think of only one response. That was to ride the Unity Tour. And ride it for Ron. The bracelet he wore had Ron’s name on it. He had a placard with a photo of Ron attached to the back of his bicycle seat.
“This is the first time I rode for somebody I knew so I really felt it in the heart,” reported Russo, who made the Tour for the 10th time this year. “It was getting to me, but I was just like, ‘Nah, I’m riding for this guy. I got to make it.’ I think he gave me a little push.”
As he kneeled at the wall to take the etching of his dad’s name, Russ no doubt had some words for his dad. They did not give up. They were never going to give up. And it was all for this feeling.
“I know he is amongst the people he should be because that wall is filled with warriors,” Russ revealed. “To see his name on the wall was – it’s hard not to get emotional about it even now – very powerful. It was a dramatic day I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
Vigil allows family of Hudson County Corrections Local 109 member Bernard Waddell to honor his burning passion
By Dan Campana
Among the 40,000 gathered at the National Mall for the Candlelight Vigil, loved ones of those lost in the line of duty, sporting shirts with messages honoring their officers, spread out from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But up close to the stage, where the roll call of heroes would be read, a family stood out with uplifting artwork on a navy blue T-shirt.
Within the orange outline of a badge were three lines of words. The top line read “Waddell.” The bottom read “Strong.” In between, against a thick blue line, was the number 438.
And so began the homage to Hudson County Corrections Officers Local 109 member Bernard Waddell, badge number 438, at the Vigil. Nearly a dozen members of his family came to the Vigil to honor Waddell, who passed on April 1, 2020, the first New Jersey law enforcement officer to be lost to COVID.
More than a year went by before Waddell officially became a line-of-duty death to the point where his name could be inscribed on the Wall at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. So his family marked the occasion by coming to National Police Week with a message the truly defined how he lived.
The family also came with signs and banners noting, “This candle burns in memory of Corporal Bernard Waddell.” It was hard not be swept up in their reverence and feel like maybe all 40,000 candles lit on this night also burned in memory of Waddell.
“We just wanted to make sure that he had the proper recognition for 30-years-plus with the job,” confirmed Bernard Waddell Jr., a Union County Police Local 73 member. “The fact that his department is down here representing as well as escorting us throughout this, it’s a great honor. It’s a great feeling. It means a lot and he gave a lot, and we wanted to make sure that we took care of him.”
Waddell Sr., who spent 32 years on the job, wasn’t one to seek the spotlight or want much pomp and circumstance. But his family said it was worth the wait.
Because of COVID, the family was unable to have a proper law enforcement funeral service for Waddell, so the Vigil proved to be the most uplifting and honorable way to make up for that.
“He deserves it, every last bit of it,” Waddell Jr. added. “It’s sensory overload. We stepped off the bus, and there was just officers lined up side by side. It’s a beautiful thing just to know that you have your brothers and sisters … there to support you through this journey; just to know that they’re there to help and support during this, it means a lot to my family.”
Waddell Sr. was just 56 when he died after the virus struck hard at the jail where he made a name for himself as a no-nonsense professional willing to take on whatever assignment came his way. Although retirement was an option for him, he kept working, in part to support his family.
“One of the great lessons was to carry on and be responsible, to work with pride. He was a man,” said his son John Waddell, who also was in D.C. “He wore his uniform more than his casual clothes, so when it came to both me and my brother wearing uniforms, going to work, doing our job and serving the public, this definitely affects us a lot.”
New Jersey State PBA President Pat Colligan read Waddell’s name aloud during the Candlelight Vigil to signify an eternal recognition of Waddell’s contribution to law enforcement. Sheilah Waddell described her husband as patient, loving and kind with a sense of humor and a strong work ethic. She went on to say that the ceremony acknowledging her husband was “amazing” and an important moment to her family, especially the couple’s sons and the people he worked with.
“Bernard would not want them to be sad for him,” Sheilah Waddell said when asked what she would say to her husband’s co-workers. “He would want them to be happy and just remember him for who he was and what he did there at the facility. [Local 109 President] Derrick James told me there were a lot of inmates who looked to him to help him get back on the straight and narrow. So I think this is amazing. Amazing that they will not forget him.”
Being at the Vigil actually brought a new perspective for the Waddell family. Bernard Jr. saw all the ways the profession honors its fallen and indicated he wants to be part of the remembrance on an ongoing basis.
He submitted that in advance of next year, he might dust off his workout clothes, get back on his Peloton and train to ride the Police Unity Tour. Police Week might be a sad occasion for loved ones of the fallen, but the Waddell family apparently has found that it can also be uplifting.
“This is something that I’m proud to be a part of, to know the recognition that comes behind that uniform, to know that you have so many friends and family that you can lean on. To hear that, to actually be there in the presence and put that in perspective, it’s a total different feeling,” Bernard Jr. declared. “We will continue to celebrate his life, as well as the years that he put in the Hudson County Corrections. And for those who he had served. Any and every function that there is that it’s honoring my father or honoring other fallen officers, we will be there. We’ll be here.”
A Seminal Moment
Vigil provides solemn opportunity for Edward Jamandron’s wife and daughter to remember the state corrections hero
By Mitchell Krugel
“From the state of New Jersey,” reverberated from NJSPBA President Pat Colligan when he stepped up to the podium at the 34th annual Candlelight Vigil. He was about to recite names of fallen NJ law enforcement officers added to the wall at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, and the call prompted groups of officers and loved ones to rise in unison.
This rush of emotion, elation and sorrow lifts National Police Week to its epic moment, the moment family members and friends of the 619 officers whose names were called this year came to Washington D.C. to remember. As President Colligan began the roll call of the 10 officers from New Jersey, Lynn Jamandron and her 12-year-old daughter, Elyssa, stood with the rest of the state’s contingent.
They had arrived in D.C. a few hours before the Vigil to experience this moment to honor State Corrections Local 105 member Edward C. Jamandron, their husband and father who was lost due to complications from COVID on Jan. 23, 2021. A few minutes later, Lynn and Elyssa lit and raised candles with the 40,000 others gathered on the National Mall to elevate their remembrance beyond what they might have ever envisioned.
“It’s just unbelievable. I didn’t realize like they could do something like this,” Lynn related moments after the three-hour reverence to the fallen concluded. When Colligan called Edward’s name, the wow factor hit Lynn with something so many survivors say they feel during these moments.
“Of course, of course, yes, I just felt his presence,” Lynn confirmed.
She and Elyssa no doubt felt that again the next day when they visited the Memorial and saw Edward’s name inscribed on the wall. They were there on behalf of the amazing family Lynn and Ed shared during almost 33 years of marriage that manifested with his greatest pride and joy: Elyssa and sons Stephen, Victor and Matthew.
Lynn had more moments in D.C. to remember the powerful impact Ed made on their family and his profession.
From his 24 years serving in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves, including several tours in Iraq, he dedicated himself to teaching the kids about personal accountability, being responsible and just doing the right thing.
From his 17 years with state corrections, including assignments at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and East Jersey State Prison in Woodbridge, he was renowned for the impact he could make on inmates.
“He always felt that even though they’re inmates, they’re humans too,” Lynn recalled. “He would say that you don’t treat them like they’re not human. They’re already doing their time.”
Lynn added that Edward was a strict disciplinarian who sometimes operated on tough love. After the Vigil, Elyssa smiled a bit thinking about how her father wanted her to learn how to help out at home. And how that already has her thinking of carrying on her father’s legacy.
“Maybe become a police officer,” she said when asked about how to best honor her father.
Elyssa then took a moment to share what about her father will always stay with her.
“He was funny,” she began. “Sometimes, he can be a little strict, but I like it. And I remember how some of the officers or coworkers would say how he was a nice guy to the inmates.”
The Vigil served as a moment to honor Edward for what Local 105 President Bull Sullivan praised as always having a positive outlook on life, always smiling and never complaining. He was a brother and a colleague that everybody got along with.
Lynn, no doubt, recalled all of that as she wiped away a few tears when Edward’s name was called.
“I was just thinking about the many years that we spent together,” Lynn disclosed. “He was an awesome dad and great husband. So industrious, very dedicated, family oriented. That’s the kind of person he is.”
The look on Lynn’s face – and Elyssa’s – as they lit their candles seem to confirm as much. That might have been the ultimate moment, feeling Edward’s presence still lighting up their lives.
Being at Police Week makes a powerful impact on the family of State Corrections Local 105 member Vincent Butler
By Esther Gonzales
Teresa Butler watched her four children grin from ear to ear as they stood together at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., on May 14. It was the first time they had seen the name of their father, State Corrections Local 105 member Vincent Butler, on the Memorial wall, inscribed among the names of so many other fallen officers.
When she saw that, Teresa beamed with pride.
“It made me so proud for us to be there to honor him,” reflected Butler, who was joined by her father-in-law, two sisters-in-law and a niece. “And to honor his memory and to be there with my other blue families.”
Although National Police Week was an extremely emotional time for Butler, she seemed to be uplifted by the sense of togetherness among survivor families who came to D.C. She commented about the support of being surrounded by a multitude of survivors.
“My children and I were able to understand that it is OK for us to acknowledge how we’re feeling,” Butler recounted. “And that we have a supportive family forever in the blue family.”
On May 13, when thousands of survivors gathered at the National Mall for the Candlelight Vigil, Butler watched the events unfold on video. Due to previous school engagements with her children, she was unable to attend.
But she shared the same reaction as the family members and friends of the other 618 officers whose names were called at the Vigil. Tears streamed down her face.
“It was a reminder of everything that a wife or a family experience and the thoughts that probably go through your head when your husband or daughter or son walk out the door,” Butler remarked. “But at the same time, you have such pride and such honor that they’re willing to do their all. And if need be, to give their life to protect another person.”
Another significant moment for the Butler family came on May 14 during the national Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) Conference at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hotel.
Butler’s youngest son, who is usually very shy and had not previously communicated his feelings about losing his father, stood in front of the group of children and young adults surrounding him, and he finally shared his grief.
“He needed to hear and know that he wasn’t the only one that was feeling like that,” Butler explained. “With those activities that my children were engaged in, they opened up. And I am blessed and so happy that we had the opportunity to experience that.”
That evening, when Butler gathered her children around her, they recounted experiences from the day and shared their favorite memories of their father.
State Corrections Local 105 member Vincent Butler was a 23-year veteran who served proudly at South Woods State Prison. He was known for the dignity and honor with which he treated inmates and giving them the respect he believed they deserved.
He treated others with humanity, no matter who they were, and that was the legacy he left behind when he passed away on Dec. 29, 2020, from complications due to COVID. So coming to Police Week was a way for Butler’s family to continue his connection to the profession.
“I feel honored to still be a part of the blue family,” Teresa remarked. “From the first moment that I met my husband, that’s all he said he wanted to be, was a police officer. He never had his mind set on anything else.”
As Teresa continued to reflect over the events of National Police Week that had significantly brought her family closer together and given her children a sense of closure, she revealed her desire to ride in the Police Unity Tour one day with her children.
To express her gratitude, Teresa is also planning to volunteer with C.O.P.S. to assist in activities and help families and children who are facing similar circumstances.
Until then, she is avidly looking forward to National Police Week 2023.
“I just want to thank all the organizers for National Police Week for the effort that they put forth on our behalf and for all families who have suffered a loss of a loved one,” Butler added. “We appreciate it from the deepest part of our heart. And if there’s anything that the Butler family can do to help someone else, we will gladly do it.”
Standing with Honor
Paterson Honor Guard members proud to be part of Candlelight Vigil detail
By Esther Gonzales
Two rows of honor guard members stood at attention facing each other. Some held red roses. Members of survivor families walked through the long line they formed leading into the Candlelight Vigil at the National Mall on May 13.
Every 15 minutes, a new group of honor guard members rotated into the formation. Among the hundreds, if not thousands, of law enforcement officers from around the world who participated in this honor, seven Paterson Local 1 members joined the detail.
“Anytime we can show support to the families of the fallen, we do,” attested Paterson Local 1 member Claude Mineo, who led the department’s honor guard at this year’s Vigil. “That’s why we come, it’s for the families. That’s the main thing.”
There were moments for the Paterson officers when they noticed the survivors. Mineo said his thoughts drifted to the soldiers he served with in the Marine Corps or those officers he had served with who gave their lives in the line of duty.
“A lot of things go through your mind,” he explained. “You’ll see them as they walk. You don’t really look at them as they’re walking past, but you do notice them, the children, the mothers and the fathers of all different ages. So it does cross your mind.”
Mineo has served with the Paterson Honor Guard for almost 23 years, and he has witnessed how the immense dedication of the honor guard elevates events.
“The honor guard is definitely the tip of the spear as far as the honoring of people throughout the department,” Mineo remarked. “Honor guard personnel feel an extra need to show their support. And the opportunity to come down here and represent on behalf of the department is special for us.”