Funeral Monday as NJ town mourns police officer killed in Route 78 crash
SUMMIT — Questions remain as a Central Jersey community struggles with the sudden death of a respected police officer in a crash on Route 78 Tuesday morning.
Summit Police Officer Matthew Tarentino will be laid to rest on Monday at 10 a.m. at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, 35 Mountain Ave., Somerville, A viewing is scheduled for Sunday at the church from 4 to 8 p.m. A graveside service will be held at Resurrection Cemetery, 899 East Lincoln Ave., Piscataway.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a YouCaring page created by the Summit Police Athletic League in support of the family.
"Officer Tarentino was the face of the department’s community policing unit and understood the importance of building relationships within Summit, most recently serving as Summit's DARE officer," the fundraising site says. "During his time with the Summit Police Department, Matt created a lasting imprint on the department and the city as well as the children of Summit. While Officer Matthew Tarentino may be gone, he will never be forgotten."
Summit Police Chief Robert Weck promoted Tarentino posthumously to the rank of detective on Wednesday.
"Matt was an exceptional police officer and fully deserving of this honor. He was highly respected within our department and throughout the Summit community. His legacy is one of strong community connections and balanced, enthusiastic outreach. While he may be gone, he will never be forgotten, and his family will always be part of ours," Weck said in a statement.
The 29-year-old was father to two children, Robert, 3, and Raymond, 2. His wife, Victoria, is pregnant with their third child. They are both graduates of Immaculata High School, where Victoria is the director of marketing.
The cable-access channel Hometowne Television created a video highlighting Tarentino's appearances as Summit's community police officer.
"We always enjoyed creating videos with him. Matt's fun-loving and kindhearted nature always came through on camera," the group wrote on its Facebook page.
The video shows Tarentino reading to a class while wearing an oversized tie, and offering tips about safely playing Pokemon Go. It also shows an undated interview with Tarentino explaining why he got into law enforcement.
"My entire family on my mother's side is somehow involved in law enforcement. From a young age, I thought, that's an honorable job — a job that will let me go out and help other people, and not only help other people, but help build a strong community bond with the people who live in the town," Tarentino said.
Tarentino was driving to work on Route 78 East around 6:20 a.m. when a gray Toyota Camry that had been heading west crossed over the grassy median and struck Tarentino’s red Honda Accord.
Tarentino’s car then struck another Toyota traveling east, State Police spokesman Laurence Peele said.
The crash killed both Tarentino and the driver of the Camry, whose identity authorities have yet to disclose. Authorities have not said why the Camry driver left his side of the interstate pending an ongoing investigation.
The crash closed Route 78 eastbound for five hours.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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