NEW CASTLE —
Throngs of people crowded along East Washington Street Wednesday, paying final tribute to fallen officer William J. “Jerry” McCarthy IV.
A motorcade of about 20 motorcycles and more than 200 police cruisers, all with flashing red and blue lights, created a sensation as it rode slowly toward Shenango Township.
Some people held signs and businesses posted messages on their marquees and signs with such tributes as “God Bless, Officer Jerry,” “Rest in Peace, Officer McCarthy,” and “Thank you for your service.”
First-, second- and third-graders and teachers from New Castle’s Thaddeus Stevens School lined the sidewalk waving flags.
People sat on lawn chairs and porches or stood on sidewalks. Some waved flags while others saluted or held their hands and hats over their hearts as the hearse carrying McCarthy passed by.
McCarthy, 60, was killed in a traffic accident in New Castle Thursday night. A Shenango policeman and Lawrence County detective and humane officer, he was on duty for the township when a car allegedly fleeing New Castle police slammed broadside into his cruiser. The police car’s driver, Shenango patrolman Michael Lynch, 35, suffered a fractured hip and ankle.
Outside St. Vitus Church Wednesday morning, more than 500 police officers, firefighters, ambulance crews, sheriff’s personnel and park and game rangers gathered in formation to pay him homage. All were clad in full military dress uniforms with white gloves, visored hats and shiny shoes.
They represented more than 100 departments and agencies from throughout Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey.
Some of the officers wore lapel buttons with McCarthy’s picture and the words: “Officer William “Jerry” McCarthy, EOW (End of Watch), May 2, 2013.”
THE CHURCH SERVICE
As the hearse carrying McCarthy’s flag-draped casket arrived at the South Side New Castle church, a crowd of mourners stood motionless in extended silence. Then Pittsburgh police bagpipes resounded as a vanguard of Shenango officers and county district attorney’s office detectives escorted the casket into the church.
The Rev. Francis Almade, who presided over a Mass, likened McCarthy’s tragedy to the story of Job.
“Why? Why is an unanswerable question,” he said. “All of the books of any religion, including our dear Bible, do not answer that question.”
Nor do they answer why Job had to suffer the way he did, Almade said.
He asked the police officers in the church, “How many bullets are here? How many firearms are on you? Could they have prevented this senseless act?
“But I did learn what so many of you do. You serve. That’s what the real power is, the service of others. It’s a blessing to all of us in your care.”
Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa eulogized McCarthy as a hero.
“Our thin blue line grew even thinner today,” he said. “If you’re looking for a hero, just look here at this casket, and look at all of the officers gathered here and outside.
“Officers like Jerry McCarthy wake up every morning and put their badges on their chests to go out and make life easier for the rest of us.”
Of McCarthy, Lamancusa said that “every man who ever served with him loved him. That tells me everything about his courage and about Jerry’s heart. He was a man who lived and loved with every bit of his heart and soul.
“We can’t thank you enough, Jerry McCarthy, for all that you have sacrificed for us.”
McCarthy’s son, Michael, a Georgia firefighter, stepped up to the pulpit in uniform with a letter he had written to his father after his death. He was overcome with grief as he struggled to read it.
Video: Saying goodbye to Shenango officer Jerry McCarthy.
Police cars formed three lines on Mill Street, then proceeded into a single line that traveled onto Taylor, then East Washington streets.
A group of dog owners, united as Promises for Pets, gathered with their canines at the entrance to Cascade Park as a tribute to McCarthy’s dedication to the animal kingdom. They had organized the effort on Facebook Tuesday night.
After Wednesday’s ceremony, Ellwood City canine officer Michael McBride told how McCarthy would help with decoy work in training his and Shenango’s dogs — decoy work that entailed taking bites from the dogs, but McCarthy was never injured.
McCarthy also was quick to volunteer with public demonstrations with the dogs. His last time was at “Bark for Life,” a cancer fund-raiser in April 2012, McBride said.
“When I didn’t have anyone else to help, Jerry would always drop what he was doing and come and help us.”
As the procession made its way to Shenango Township, 17 fire and rescue vehicles joined the journey to Grove City.
Two ladder trucks had hoisted an American flag over the intersection with Willowbrook Road, near the Shenango municipal building where a group of Boy Scouts saluted.
The procession continued onto Route 108, where Laurel school students and teachers stood at the edge of the road waving flags.
It then followed Route 108, through Harlansburg to Interstate 79, where the northbound lanes were closed to other traffic for seven miles.
Signs all along the route, many of them homemade on cardboard, paid tribute with such sayings as, “Thank You for Serving, We will miss you,” “God Bless Officer McCarthy” and “Jerry, we honor your sacrifice.”
The town of Grove City also welcomed the motorcade with an arch formed by its fire department’s aerial trucks that had suspended a flag over the main intersection.
Grove City officers with canines stood at attention and saluted as the cruisers and firetrucks passed and people there, too, numbered in the hundreds, watching and saluting.
Among the signs there was “Grove City High School Class of 1971 welcomes you home, Officer Jerry.”
The final stop was Crestview Memorial Park Cemetery, where a police honor guard escorted the casket to a ceremonial site for final prayers.
A state police helicopter flew overhead and a gun salute was followed by a bagpipe rendition of taps, then “Amazing Grace.”
(To view a photo gallery from Wednesday's funeral and procession for Jerry McCarthy, CLICK HERE.)