Police & Fire

Mourners Visit Somerville Church to Pay Respects to Summit Police Officer Tarentino

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A blue ribbon is tied to the tree in front of Immaculate Conception Church; hundreds of ribbons have been fastened to trees and sign posts throughout Somerville in honor of Matthew Tarentino. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Fellow officers from the Summit Police Department acted as the Honor Guard Sunday during memorial services for Matthew Tarentino. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Summit Police Det. Matthew Fiorentino Credits: Courtesy Summit Police
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The line of mourners waiting to enter Immaculate Conception Church stretched outside the church and down Mountain Avenue. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Summit Police salute as the casket is wheeled into the church. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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The American flag outside Immaculate Conception School and Church flies at half staff to honor Matthew Tarentino. The entrance to the school is draped in black bunting. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Students' sign at the base of Mary, Mother of God honors the Tarentino and Cullen families. Cullen is the maiden name of Vickie, Matthew Tarentino's wife. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Sister Mary Chapman, principal of Immaculate Conception School, holding gree umbrella, waits in line outside the church to pay her respects to Matthew Tarentio along with police from S. Bound Brook. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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The Summit Police Honor Guard enters Immaculate Conception Church. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Mountain Avenue will be closed Monday for several hours. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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SOMERVILLE, NJ - Thousands of mourners – his widow and the family who loved him, friends and neighbors, those he worked with and those he worked for, people he worshipped alongside, and total strangers touched by his tragic loss – lined up outside Immaculate Conception Church yesterday to pay their respects to Matthew Tarentino.

Tarentino, 29, a Somerville resident, Summit police officer and parishioner of the church, was killed in a three-car accident on Route 78 in Bernards Township Tuesday, May 30.

They came in droves, lining up outside the church more than one hour before the scheduled viewing was to begin at 4 p.m. As they did, the line grew longer, stretching down Mountain Avenue past the rectory and Somerset Savings Bank to the corner of West End Avenue.

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Many of those waiting to pay their respects were police officers from towns throughout New Jersey and other jurisdictions, as well as firefighters and first responders from Somerville and other towns. The Summit First Aid Squad arrived in a procession of four ambulances.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at the church today at 10 a.m. A procession will proceed to Resurrection Cemetery in Piscataway after the service.  Multiple police departments and State Police will be involved securing the state highway, the interstate and local roadways to facilitate the funeral procession.

Traffic delays are expected on Route 22 and Route 287.

Mountain Avenue will be closed to traffic today beginning at 5 a.m. and is expected to reopen by 1 p.m.

The procession route has been changed from the one previously in place.

Instead of heading on to Route 22 from Mountain Avenue, the procession will head east on High Street and then turn left onto Grove Street and to Route 22. The procession will pass by the Tarentino residence.

Residents have been tying blue memoriam ribbons around trees in front of their homes.

Grove Street is lined with flags and Blue Line American flags are on the neighbors’ homes surrounding the Tarentino house. A police officer was posted on the front lawn of their home Sunday night.

An intermittent drizzle brought out the umbrellas and added to the somber mood; people spoke in hushed tones, exchanging stories about Tarentino, his family, and the good work that he did at the church and as a police officer in Summit, working with children.

Tarentino was the Summit Police Department’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, and was a familiar fixture in Summit’s schools, where he conducted DARE programs.

He was on his way to speak with a group of fifth-graders about the dangers of drug abuse when the accident occurred.

Dozens of police officers from the Summit Police Department served as the honor guard, lining the walkway into the church, snapping to salute as their fellow officers accompanied the casket into the church. A black band of mourning had been added to the badges they wore on their chests.

Monsignor Seamus Brennan, rector of Immaculate Conception, will preside at the funeral mass.

Immaculate Conception School and Immaculata High School will be closed today, according to the monsignor, to allow teachers and staff to attend the Mass. He and his wife, Vickie, attended both schools.

The couple was well known in the parish. Both come from long-established Somerville families.

Tarentino’s widow is Marketing Director at the high school; his mother is the runs Connie's Music Center here. His mother-in-law works at Immaculate Conception as a music teacher.

Tarentino was also president of the Immaculate Conception School Advisory Council, working with Msgr. Brennan and Sister Mary Chapman, school principal on curriculum, technology in the classroom, planning programs and activities.

The Tarentinos were married in 2011 and have two young sons, ages 2 and 3; his wife is expected to deliver their third child in August.

“Clearly, this is a difficult time for the family, the church and the parish,” Msgr. Brennan said, “but we will soldier on and support the family however we can. He will be greatly missed by his parish family.

 “This is also a huge loss for the Summit Police Department,” he added. “They loved him as a police officer and as a friend.”

Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive order last week that directs all state buildings to fly flags at half-staff today, to honor Tarentino.

“Detective Tarentino was a loving husband, father, son, and brother, whose memory will live in the hearts of his family, friends, community, and fellow members of the Summit Police Department,” Christie said. “He served his State with courage, professionalism, and commitment to the finest ideals and traditions of the Summit Police Department. It is with deep sadness that we mourn the loss of Detective Tarentino, and we extend our sincerest sympathy to his family and loved ones.”

Raised in Somerville, Tarentino attended Immaculate Conception School and graduated from Immaculata High School. He went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications with a minor in Spanish from Rutgers University.

Tarentino joined the Summit Police department in 2012, having previously served as an officer in the Rutgers Police Department and the South Bound Brook Police Department.

Along with the Summit Police Department, Tarentino was recently honored by the state Attorney General as the 2017 recipient of the Attorney General’s Outstanding Community Policing Award.

Tarentino was also president of the Immaculate Conception School Advisory Council, working with Msgr. Brennan and Sister Mary Chapman, school principal on curriculum, technology in the classroom, planning programs and activities.

The Summit Police Athletic League (PAL) has established an online donation site to for the family.

The page is located on the 'compassionate crowdfunding' portal youcaring.com, and has set a goal of $500,000.

As of this morning, the fund had raised $420,185.

Tarentino’s involvement with Immaculate Conception School goes back to his years as a student there in the late 1990s. After graduating eighth grade, he attended Immaculata High School, graduating in 2006; his wife graduated in 2005.

Tarentino was a member of the marching band and concert band and played varsity tennis while a student at IHS, according to Ken Greg, a 1983 graduate of IHS who lives a few blocks from the Tarentinos. Both families have been friends going back several generations. Greg took drum lessons at Connie's a music studio on Davenport Street that was owned by Tarentino's grandfather and in later years, his father.

"I'd describe him as one of the nicest people I ever met, he had a good soul and never had a bad word to say about anybody," Greg said.

The crash occurred at 6:20 a.m. May 30 when a car headed westbound on Route 78 in Bernards crossed over the grass median and struck Tarentino’s vehicle, who was headed east. Tarentino's vehicle then struck another car, according to State Police.

The driver of the car that crossed the median and struck Tarentino's vehicle died at Morristown Medical Center later that afternoon. The third driver, who was struck by Tarentino's car, was also transported to Morristown Medical Center with non-threatening injuries. State Police identified the third driver as 54-year-old Larry Staley of Easton, Pa.

 “This loss has greatly affected not only our law enforcement community and the citizens of the city of Summit, but people far and wide,” said Summit Police Chief Robert Weck.

“Matthew Tarentino epitomized what a law enforcement officer should be: a respected, trusted colleague with unshakeable dedication and enthusiasm for his calling. He was the face of the department’s community policing unit and understood the importance of building relationships within Summit. During his short time with us, Matt created a lasting imprint on our department and the city. While Officer Matthew Tarentino may be gone, he will never be forgotten.”

The Summit Police Department has promoted Tarentino to the rank of Detective posthumously.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correctly state where Tarentino's mother works.

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