NEW CASTLE — Shock gripped Lawrence and Mercer counties last spring.
Flags were lowered to half staff. Police officers wore black and blue-striped bands over their badges and a Jerry McCarthy “end of watch” button on their uniform lapels.
Lawrence County lost what many considered to be one of its finest men in blue when a driver, allegedly fleeing New Castle police, snuffed out the life of 60-year-old William J. “Jerry” McCarthy IV on May. 2.
McCarthy’s last night of patrol was working as a part-time officer for the Shenango Township police. The cruiser in which he was a passenger was struck around 9 p.m. McCarthy died almost instantly of multiple injuries.
Shenango patrolman Michael Lynch, 35, who was driving the cruiser, suffered a broken hip and broken ankle.
The Pontiac Sunfire that slammed into the cruiser had been driven by Kylee Gwen Barletto, 26, of 693 Hoover Road, whose license was suspended at the time of the crash.
She faces charges of second degree manslaughter of a law enforcement officer, homicide by vehicle, fleeing or attempting to elude police officers, accident involving death or injury, involuntary manslaughter, recklessly endangering another person, two counts of aggravated assault, simple assault, four stop sign violations, careless driving and reckless driving.
Barletto also sustained multiple injuries and was hospitalized after the crash.
District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa said last week she is awaiting trial.
Lynch’s recovery has been slow and steady, and he returned to patrol in September, his physical wounds healing faster than the emotional scars, according to William Phillips, Shenango police superintendent.
“It’s been tough for him,” said Phillips, who added Lynch has declined media interviews.
“It’s been tough for the whole department,” Phillips said. “They’re all young guys and they’ve never been through anything like this.”
Nor have the communities of Lawrence and Mercer counties. At least not in recent history.
McCarthy was laid to rest May 8 in his home town of Grove City, after lying in state for a 12-hour watch spanning two days as fellow police officers stood guard over him at St. Vitus Church.
Hundreds of officers and troopers from multiple states, government workers, former co-workers, friends and family went to pay their respects.
On the day of his funeral, schools canceled classes and signs and marquees paying tribute and thanking McCarthy for his service dotted local highways and streets.
More than 100 cruisers, firetrucks and ambulances joined a procession that wound its way from St. Vitus Church in New Castle to the Crestview Memorial Park cemetery in Grove City.
Crowds gathered at roadsides by the hundreds, saluting as the motorcade passed, and school children waved flags as the procession went by.
Firetrucks in Shenango Township and Grove City raised their ladders and suspended flags in McCarthy’s memory as the procession wound its way through the countryside to his final destination.
According to Phillips, McCarthy’s name will be added in May to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., during national Police Memorial Week.
Two local police officers are bicycling there in his honor.
McCarthy’s name also will be added to the roll of the American Law Enforcement Museum and Hall of Fame in June in Miami, Fla.
McCarthy was working full-time as a humane officer for the Lawrence County district attorney’s office at the time of his death.
“There’s not a day that goes by still, when Jerry’s name isn’t mentioned by some officer or detective here,” Lamancusa said. “As a humane officer, he left some large shoes to fill.”