NEWARK, NJ — The death of Essex County Undersheriff Kevin Ryan on June 20 was a "devastating loss" for the department and for the county’s sheriff, Armando Fontoura.

“He was like a son to me. He was always the first one on the scene. He was always there to help. It’s just devastating. There is not much more I can say," Fontoura said in a statement.

Ryan worked in the department for about 25 years and also briefly represented parts of Essex County when he joined the state Assembly in 2011.  He died while off-duty at the age of 49, said sheriff’s spokesman Kevin Lynch.

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Ryan was posthumously named chief at his funeral service held in Newark's Basilica Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Lynch said.

Now, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. wants to rename the sheriff's patrol building on Market Street in honor of Ryan. He sent an ordinance to the freeholder board to review the name change to Essex County Kevin J. Ryan Sheriff's Headquarters.

“Naming the Sheriff’s Headquarters in Kevin’s honor is a fitting way to keep his legacy of public service alive,” DiVincenzo said in a statement. “He was a consummate law enforcement professional who enjoyed working for the Sheriff’s Office and loved Essex County and its residents.”

DiVincenzo called the late undersheriff the "go-to person in times of emergency and crisis." Ryan most recently supervised the Field Operations Division, which includes the Patrol Division, Bureau of Narcotics, bomb squad, K-9 Unit and Emergency Management. He also worked in the Fleet Management Unit. 

Ryan also served as an Essex County Schools of Technology board member, a position he held since 2006, according to a county press release.

Ryan was appointed to the state Assembly about seven years ago to fill the 36th Legislative District seat, which became vacant after Fred Scalera retired. An undersheriff at the time, Ryan served for about a year but did not run for re-election. 

His career in law enforcement first began in Nutley, where Ryan served four years with that town's police department.

Since joining the sheriff’s department in 1993, Ryan has worked on task forces with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and with local police departments throughout Essex County. He also supervised a protection detail which provided security to Pope John Paul II and multiple presidents.

Ryan was honored as a Knight of the Equestrian Order by Pope Francis in 2016, according to a county release.

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