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Sunday night, Wilmington police and firemen, state troopers, and highway patrol were among hundreds of people who honored the Wilmington police officer killed in the line of duty last week.

Wilmington Police’s Brendan McIerney said, “It’s a tragic loss. I got a call that night from when I was home, because we weren’t on the same team anymore, I had been transferred. At 2 in the morning I received the call and it was a shock.”

Wilmington police officer Richard Matthews died early Wednesday morning. Officer Matthews was responding to a call for back-up when he swerved to avoid a box in the roadway, lost control, and hit a tree. Sunday, hundreds of family, friends and fellow law enforcement gathered to celebrate Matthew’s life at Port City Community Church in Wilmington.

Cpl. Robert Perozzi said, “He was always ready to get into stuff, stay active, and just…if you needed help, he’d help you.”

“We lost one of our family. It’s a family thing,” former Wilmington mayor, David Jones said.

Friends said Matthews was meant to be a police officer; he will be missed for his work on the force and his kindness as a friend.

“He was a great guy that loved to work, and talked to everybody that he met. He did not have a poor word for anybody. How do you replace something like that,” added Officer McIerney.

When he was not on duty, the 28-year-old Matthews was just as active. Before his life was cut short, he planned to run a triathlon with his family. “He was going to do the biking portion, his brother was going to do the swim and his sister was going to do the run. So they’re going to try and still do that without him, as a tribute to him,” Officer McIerney said.

His death marks the first time in 30 years a Wilmington police officer died in the line of duty. “It takes a tragedy sometimes to wake us up and make us realize that every officer stands a chance of losing his life at any second,” Jones said.

That did not stop Officer Matthews from putting his life on the line each day; something his friends, family and fellow officers will never forget.

Perozzi said, “Hopefully he’ll rest in peace and God bless him and his family.”

Donations in memory of Officer Matthews may be directed to the Wilmington Police Recreation Association, care of Lieutenant Matt Hinson, 615 Bess Street in Wilmington, 28401.

Officer Matthews’ family will hold a memorial service at Saint Mark Catholic Church on Eastwood Road Monday at 1:00 p.m. The funeral services and burial will be held later in his home town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

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