Sergeant Christopher Blackburn
The Bridgeton Police Department is mourning the loss of one its longtime officers who was killed early Saturday morning in a single-vehicle crash in Pittsgrove Township.
Sgt. Christopher L. Blackburn, 38, was traveling westbound on Centerton Road near Deerfield Road around 12:45 a.m. when the accident took place, according to Sgt. Sean Jones of the New Jersey State Police at the Bridgeton Barracks.
Jones said that Blackburn, for an unknown reason, lost control of the 2006 Ford Explorer he was driving, left the roadway and struck a utility pole. Blackburn was alone in the vehicle at the time of the crash.
News of Blackburn’s death was a tremendous shock to Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly, who said it was a great loss to the community.
“It’s a tragedy,” Kelly said Saturday. “I was stunned when the police chief notified me this morning. All the hard work and dedication our law enforcement does, this is a sad day.”
Kelly said he will be asking the Bridgeton City Council to allow all city flags to be flown at half-staff in Blackburn’s honor.
Blackburn, of Upper Deerfield, was a graduate of Rowan University. He was a 12-year decorated veteran of the Bridgeton Police Department who was promoted to his current rank of sergeant in 2008.
During his career, Blackburn served in both the department’s patrol and criminal investigations bureau and was a former K-9 officer.
Blackburn was also president of Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 94A Superior Officers Association.
His colleagues described him as a dedicated officer and father.
“He will surely be missed and remembered fondly by all who had the opportunity to work with him,” said Bridgeton Capt. Michael A. Gaimari.
Bridgeton Sgt. John Sloboda knew Blackburn for more than 10 years. He described him as a “go-getter” and a “real family man.”
“He was always spending time with his son,” Sloboda said. “Always helping him with his racing at the Motorsports Park – he really loved him and took good care of him.”
Bridgeton Police Chief Mark Ott also praised Blackburn for being a role model for his son.
“It was a pleasure to see how good of a father he was,” Ott said. “How involved he was in with him. You know, police work can really not be conducive to perfect family life.”
Ott added the numerous decorations Blackburn earned in his time as a police officer, including multiple honorable service medals, lifesaving medals and unit citation medals – to name a few.
Sloboda added that Blackburn spent much of his time doing community service, putting dinner baskets together, and giving back to the community in any way possible.
Blackburn was among city officers being considered for promotion to the rank of lieutenant, Sloboda said.
On Saturday night at the Deerfield Harvest Festival in Rosenhayn, several members of the Bridgeton police department paid tribute to Blackburn.
Gaimari and Lt. Mike Speranza were both in attendance as a moment of silence was held for Blackburn and some brief words in Blackburn’s honor.
Speranza knew Blackburn for 14 years and they had worked on the same squad together.
“This has taken a toll on everyone at the station,” Speranza said. “He was highly respected, a wealth of knowledge and not a lazy bone in his body. We are a family and many of the guys hung out with him off-duty. A lot of people are still in shock and can’t believe this happened.”
On the Bridgeton Police Department’s Facebook page, a black band is seen across the department badge as a sign of mourning.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Contact staff writer Spencer Kent at 856-451-1000 ext. 516 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.