A Wilmington Police officer died in a car crash early Wednesday morning. Officer Richard Matthews died after losing control of his patrol car around the 3900 block of Shipyard Blvd. at 1:18 a.m. He was heading east on Shipyard to back up another officer when he apparently lost control, crossed the median and hit a tree. Crews took him to New Hanover Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. Officer Matthews was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. Long-time friend Sue Gallagher got a phone call at 3 in the morning, informing her of her dear friend's death. "He was very proud," Gallagher said. "He used to tell my daughter a lot that he would be out there catching the bad guys, and he would." Officer Matthews was recently issued a commendation for his acts of bravery, courage and professionalism on the job. He and several of his co-workers were honored for their work during a structure fire on Park Avenue. Officer Matthews, and four other officers, awakened and evacuated residents of the complex as the fire was spreading quickly. Their actions included taking a 96-year-old woman to safety. "He volunteered for everything and he was a hard, hard worker," says Police Chief Ralph Evangelous. Officer Matthews was 28 years old. He had been part of the Wilmington Police Department since December, 2006. He came to WPD after serving with the New York City Police Department from January 2004 until December 2006. In Wilmington, Officer Matthews spent time at the Port City Community Church. Pastor Mike Ashcraft remembers him fondly. "His close friends began coming here, and that's how we got to know him," he said. Officer Matthews was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Matthews of Bethlehem, PA. His funeral service will be held in his hometown early next week. A memorial service will most likely take place in Wilmington the following week. Donations in memory of Officer Matthews may be directed to the Wilmington Police Recreation Association, c/o Lt. Matt Hinson, 615 Bess Street, Wilmington, NC 28401.
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