Officer dies hours after jumping into river to save accused burglar, police say
BRIDGETON — A police officer died at home just hours after trying to rescue a woman accused of burglarizing several city-owned facilities, police say.
Sean Peek died Sunday morning at his home, Bridgeton Police said in a message on their Facebook page Monday. He was found unresponsive by family members and an official cause of death is still pending an autopsy, Bridgeton Police Chief Michael A. Gaimari Sr. said.
"The men and women of the Bridgeton Police Department and the entire City of Bridgeton" are mourning his death, the police department wrote.
Gaimari said police are "are naturally devastated here at the department."
"Sean was a fine officer and a friend to all and always acted in an exemplary fashion when representing the department and the City of Bridgeton,” Gaimari said. “He will be sorely missed and our hearts collectively go out to Megan and their 8-year-old daughter Kate.”
Police said Peek had been working overnight from Saturday into Sunday when he and other officers were dispatched to a Bridgeton Fire Department EMT satellite station on Mayor Aitken Drive at about 1:30 a.m., responding to a report of someone striking an ambulance and leaving the facility with an unknown object.
When Peek arrived, he saw someone running in the wooded area near the Washington Street Bridge that spans the Cohansey River, and eventually saw the person either fall or jump in the river, police said.
“Sean made a decision as would any officer and entered to water in attempt to pull the person from the running waters no matter what the circumstances,” Gaimari said in the statement from police.
The woman made it across the river, but Peek struggled to get back to shore, still wearing all of his equipment and gear, the chief said. Other officers assisted him, and police were able to apprehend the woman, police said.
Both Peek and the woman — Sarah Jeanne Davis, 29, of Canton, Conn. — were taken to Inspira Hospital in Bridgeton to be examined, police said. Peek was treated and released from the hospital and relieved of duty until cleared to return to work.
Davis was released from the hospital as well and was taken into custody. She was charged with burglarizing several city-owned structures along Mayor Aitken Drive, including the fire department facility. Police say she also broke several windows and equipment, causing more than $1,000 in damage.
She was lodged in the Cumberland County Jail pending the completion of the investigation, police said.
Peek's death is the second of a New Jersey officer over the Labor Day weekend. A 23-year-old Lakewood police officer, Nicklas Shimonovich, died Saturday after an off-duty motorcycle crash in Ocean County. His parents are also both members of the Lakewood department.