BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) A Connecticut police officer with ties to Vermont is dead after trying to break up a bar fight. Friends and colleagues of Matthew Mainieri recalled the Colchester native's dedication to serving others.
"Matt was pretty incredible as far as his want, his need, to help people," said Colchester Technical Rescue Chief Michael Cannon. He says Mainieri was someone who always wanted to be of service. "We had an arrangement with the school system where they would let the kids go during classes, during the daytime, if it was a serious enough call. And Matt would run from the high school over to the rescue station to try and catch the ambulance before it would leave."
Mainieri grew up in the Colchester area, working at Colchester Rescue in high school. He grew up to become Sgt. Matt Mainieri for the South Windsor Police in Connecticut, even earning the department's medal of valor.
But on Sunday, the 20-year-veteran was killed while off-duty and on vacation, trying to de-escalate a bar fight in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
"It didn't surprise me that he did what he did," Cannon said.
Police say the 41-year-old Mainieri was sucker-punched by 21-year-old Kelton Todd. So far Kelton is only charged with aggravated assault, but could still face a homicide charge.
Pamela Jakubowski went to Colchester High School with Mainieri and lives in Myrtle Beach now. "It's certainly not an area that you would expect something like this to happen," Jakubowski said. She says Mainieri was truly a good person. "We are all praying. Everybody down here is very sad about it -- they truly are, and really equally outraged that the person who caused this is out on bond."
Mainieri was a motorcycle officer and friends like Norm LeBlanc say he enjoyed riding in his free time as well. "He had two bikes and he would ride from here to South Carolina without a moments notice," LeBlanc said.
Cannon says he should always be remembered for his dedication to the community, whether it was Vermont, Connecticut or South Carolina. "He was the picture of somebody that would come to your aid in a time of crisis, in a time of need, and he's been doing that since when he was kid, since when he was in high school," he said.