Beloved Dunkirk police officer is laid to rest

DUNKIRK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Officer Matthew Hazelton was the highest producing member of the Dunkirk Police Department. But the sudden onset of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, forced him to step away from his duties about six months ago. The 39-year-old father, husband and son lost his battle on Sunday.

“Very somber day for our police department and the community that we serve,” said Dunkirk Police Chief David Ortolano. “To say that we’ve been heartbroken is an understatement.”

Hazelton made more arrests than any of his fellow officers. And what they wouldn’t give to hear him respond to just one more emergency.

Instead, the department honored the fallen with a ceremonial end-of-service call, as his casket was lifted into a waiting hearse.

In addition to being a K-9 officer, Hazelton was a key member of the department’s SRT tactical and dive teams.

He was diagnosed with ALS around Christmas 2016, and was able to work a few more months.

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Sgt. Mark Gruber was Hazelton’s supervisor on second shift, and joined the department soon after him.

“At all times he was out there patrolling, doing his job, serving and protecting,” Gruber said. “Matt didn’t have an off switch. So when he got in his car along with his canine partner Nico, they were going 3 to 11.”

Without Hazelton’s unyielding support, the department will now support one another, and the family the local man has left behind.

“I think being a police officer is a very unique profession, and especially when unfortunate events like this happen, is when we really come together,” Gruber said. “They call it the blue line, but whatever it is, it just means we’re a big family. And to see the outpouring from all the different agencies in our county and across the state has just been incredible.

Police and city administration couldn’t say enough about how the community has supported them since Sunday. In fact, someone left painted rocks on the steps at headquarters, one adorned with a blue line and condolences, and the other a heart painted broken, a fitting symbol for this day in Dunkirk.

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