New Castle News

May 8, 2013

Outpouring shows love, respect for Shenango officer

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Shenango Township police officers younger than William J. “Jerry” McCarthy would frequently refer to themselves as “Jerry’s kids.”

Love, respect, religion, comradeship and a strong work ethic — McCarthy always carried those with him as a police officer, a Lawrence County humane officer and a man, according to coworkers left heartbroken by his death.

The 60-year-old died in a traffic accident Thursday night in New Castle, when a car allegedly fleeing police slammed broadside into the cruiser in which he was a passenger.

On Monday, the first of two days of calling hours, Shenango’s police superintendent William Phillips and the county’s district attorney Joshua Lamancusa shared memories and stories that showed the love and respect they have for the fallen officer.

McCarthy is being laid to rest Wednesday in Grove City, following a Mass of Christian burial Wednesday morning at St. Vitus Church and a two-day, 12-hour turnout of hundreds of officers, courthouse employees, former co-workers, friends and family who went to pay last respects.

The outpouring is testament not to how McCarthy died, but to how he lived.

St. Vitus school canceled classes Wednesday and businesses along South Mill Street placed tributes on signs such as, “Rest in Peace,” and “God bless.”

Police officers from throughout the county volunteered to stand vigil at his open casket, two at a time for 15-minute intervals throughout the visitation.

“There has been no shortage of officers,” Lamancusa said.



AT THE ALTAR

An array of flowers in bright hues of purple, red, orange and yellow decorated the church altar where McCarthy’s body lay in state.

His bereft family gathered in the front pew and received friends, more flowers and condolences as lines formed at various intervals Monday and Tuesday.

Two American flags were laid inside the casket, one of which had been draped over him by paramedics at the hospital the night he died.

Lamancusa said that flag would be presented Wednesday to McCarthy’s grandmother, the other larger one to his widow.



TENDER EULOGY

“Everybody was close with Jerry,” Phillips said somberly outside the church, where a Shenango Township firetruck ladder displayed an American flag over the entrance.

When Shenango hired McCarthy as a part-time officer, Phillips initially had concerns about him being older and adapting to so many younger guys on his force.

“But I’ve never seen anybody fit in so quickly in my life,” he said. “He’d call (the county 911 center) and tell the dispatchers he’d be on with Jerry’s kids. That’s what they called themselves.”

“In his own way, Jerry was probably one of the best officers I ever met,” Phillips continued. “He’d do anything you asked, any time, big or small or in between, without hesitation and would do it willingly.”

McCarthy loved animals and volunteered in Ellwood City to help officers with police dog handling and training.

“This 60-year-old man was allowing himself to be bitten by the dog,” Phillips said. “His first words always were, ‘Little brother, what can I do for you, what do you need?’”

McCarthy called himself a follower, and would say, “You tell me where you want me to be,” Phillips said.



A HUMANE OFFICER

Lamancusa hired McCarthy in 2011 as a full-time county deputy and humane officer.

His job was to protect neglected or abused animals from people and he did that with finesse, Lamancusa said.

He marveled at how McCarthy would enter a dangerous situation and negotiate.

“There was never a time that he couldn’t find a home or medical treatment for an animal,” Lamancusa said, “even when they were so bad they were close to death. Many animals would have been put to sleep, were it not for his extraordinary efforts.”

Lamancusa recalled spending a day on the job with McCarthy, going to a farm where horses had been neglected.

“That was the day I knew that hiring him was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

McCarthy examined the horses and worked with the owners, advising them of what they were doing wrong and how to care for their coats and feed them.

“I asked him how he knew all this, and he said, ‘Little brother, that’s why you sent me to training.’”

He would get food for the animals and would find ways to get what he needed to get the job done, Lamancusa said.

As a county detective, McCarthy provided support with county narcotics operations.

“He was fearless,” Lamancusa said. “There were times I’d try to talk to him out of going into places without backup in dangerous situations and he would resolve them.”



GOOD SAMARITAN

“What differentiated Jerry from everyone else was who he was as a person,” Lamancusa said. “He was very humble. This was a man who was so proud and honored to be a policeman. He was a God-fearing, loving man and he showed kindness to people who often did not deserve his kindness.”

There were his personal touches, too, that endeared McCarthy to the district attorney’s staff, several of whom sobbed openly at the viewing.

McCarthy would go to the office early every day and make coffee for everyone, Lamancusa said.

Whenever he left for the day, he would stop and see Lamancusa and ask, “Are we good here?”

“I’d say, ‘We’re good,’ and he’d always say, ‘If you’re happy, I’m happy.’ Then he’d always say, ‘God bless, little brother.’”

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)