Hundreds pay final respects to NJ state trooper Frankie Williams
Boardwalk Hall hosted the funeral service for New Jersey State Trooper Frankie Williams on Monday, December 12. Following the service, the fallen trooper was given a final farewell down the boardwalk.
ATLANTIC CITY - Family, friends and the law enforcement community came together Monday to make it known how much New Jersey State Trooper Frankie Williams was loved and respected — and how much he'll be missed.
A solemn service was held at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for Williams, who was fatally injured last week in an on-duty car crash on Route 55 in Cumberland County.
Police officers from at least a half-dozen states joined mourners at the service, which began with two separate viewings inside the historic convention center and ended with a ceremonial procession on the Boardwalk.
The Boardwalk Hall service and graveside ceremony were closed to the media, but friends and colleagues gathered on the Boardwalk and expressed their memories of the 31-year-old newlywed, who just started his career in law enforcement.
Williams, who graduated in January as part of the academy's 156th class, is survived by his wife Kimberly.
“He was very outgoing, very pleasant, he brought life into everything,” said Carmen Ocasio, Kimberly Williams' cousin. “I’m so sad. He was just too young to go.”
Seeing the demonstration of solidarity by police, Ocasio said, “It’s just awe-inspiring. It’s wonderful to see so much support.”
Waves of police officers from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and as far away as Michigan and Colorado, poured into the convention center beginning in the early morning hours.
“It’s a huge event, but it’s for the family first and foremost,” New Jersey State Police Chaplain Gary Holden said. “When it’s a state police funeral, you see a lot of state police from around the country.”
According to NJ State Police Trooper Jeff Flynn, Williams’ death was the fourth traffic-related fatality in 18 months for the department.
Holden said deaths like Williams' have a huge impact on the law enforcement community.
“They process it and they continue on to do their jobs," Holden added. "It can’t be easy to go right out there and do the job … it’s something we hope doesn’t happen again.”
Williams died after a vehicle driven by 61-year-old Elmer resident Lloyd Rudley crossed the median on Route 55 and struck his cruiser head-on Dec. 5. Rudley was pronounced dead at the scene.
State police confirmed Williams' death not long after midnight on Dec. 6.
Williams was responding to calls for an erratic driver of a vehicle that matched the description of Rudley's red Toyota Corolla.
“He meant everything to me,” fellow state trooper Cara Spinosa said. “No matter what, he always had my back.”
Spinosa and Williams trained together in the state police academy, she said. That’s where they struck up a friendship.
“The guy had life figured out; he had so many experiences,” the 24-year-old said. “He loved his wife, his mom and his father, too. When he came back from the wedding at work he was just walking around so happy and he just had a glow about him.”
The two were stationed together at the Woodstown barracks before Williams was transferred to Port Norris.
Spinosa has since been transferred to Port Norris, but did not have the chance to work with her friend again.
“It was nothing but a joy to work alongside him, honestly,” she said.
Spinosa said she would miss Williams' congenial attitude.
“No matter what, every time I saw him he never … called me by name, it was always 'Sis,’” Spinosa said. “I was his 'Sis.’”
Many state, county and local municipal officials attended the service, including State Sen. Jim Whelan, who represents Atlantic County’s second district.
“We’re here as part of the community of South Jersey, to pay our respects to the family,” Whelan said.
Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno also were in attendance, Christie's office confirmed.
Following the service, police officers lined up in a silent demonstration on the Boardwalk while a marching band-led procession made its way by Boardwalk Hall.
The procession started from Columbus Place and ended on Texas Avenue before leaving the Boardwalk and making its way to the cemetery for the burial.
Atlantic City Police Department Public Information Officer Kevin Fair estimated more than 1,100 police were in attendance.
Atlantic County Sheriff’s Department Chaplain Wong Young talked about the show of solidarity by law enforcement.
“I think it really means something to the United States because of all the things happening right now,” he said, alluding to nationwide protests of police. “Even when we’re sleeping at night they’re watching over us like angels.”
Stephanie Bush-Baskette, who taught Williams criminal justice at Rutgers University–Camden, remembered the fallen trooper as a “great guy.”
“I was devastated when I found out," Bush-Baskette said.
Several of Williams’ classmates met up to pay their respects together, she said.
Pleasantville resident Cassandra Clemens said she knew Williams from the time they worked together at a Lowe’s Home Improvement store.
“He was a great person, great smile, always happy, always trying to help other people solve their problems," Clemens said. "Just a very lovable person all-around – he’s definitely going to be missed. He was so young, beautiful life, just starting to get where he wanted to. It’s just sad.”
“The support for him is beautiful," Clemens added.
"Frankie Williams always dreamed of becoming a New Jersey State Trooper,” State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said in a statement Friday. “He achieved that goal and quickly earned the admiration and respect of both his supervisors and peers.”
Fuentes added, “Frankie was a kind, caring person who put others before himself. We are devastated and heartbroken by his passing, but he can rest assured that we will embrace his family as they will always remain a part of our State Police family.”
Angel Williams, Frankie’s cousin, said she felt honored after leaving the service.
“The service was very touching,” she said. “With all the support, it was an honor.”
Daniel J. Kov; (856) 563-5262; firstname.lastname@example.org