South Windsor police are mourning the loss of one of their own.
Authorities tell us Sergeant Matthew Mainieri died while off-duty, after he sustained injuries trying to break up a bar fight in South Carolina.
Black bunting has been hung at the department as police grieve privately and still do the job of protecting the town.
U.S. & World
After the passing of South Windsor Police Sergeant Matthew Mainieri, the town is remembering his decades of service to the community.
“We’re very devastated about what happened. This town lost a great hero,” said Robin Pendleton, of South Windsor.
Friends of Mainieri, along with the mayor, started a makeshift memorial outside the police department on Sunday.
“This is the worst possible news one can imagine and we are totally heart-broken,” said South Windsor Mayor Dr. M. Saud Anwar.
In a statement, Deputy Chief Scott Custer wrote in part: “As you can imagine, we are all still processing this tragic loss to our agency. We have lost a wonderful officer, supervisor and friend.”
On Sunday, the 41-year-old passed away down in South Carolina, a place he was known to ride his motorcycle to with friends.
That’s where the Georgetown County Sheriff’s office tells us Mainieri was attacked at a bar near Myrtle Beach on Saturday.
Deputies quickly charged 21-year-old Kelton Todd, of Aynor, South Carolina, with assault of a high and aggravated nature in connection to the fight. Officials said Todd posted bond on Monday afternoon. Additional charges are pending.
Mainieri sister Caroline Mainieri told NBC Connecticut the family got the call that something happened around 2:30 a.m.
"They didn’t tell us he wasn’t going to make it. They told us it was really serious," she said.
Caroline said her brother was a good guy and the family wants to see more serious charges.
"Somebody needs to pay for this," she said.
Caroline said she, her mother and her brother's girlfriend are getting everything ready with the help of police officers that traveled from Connecticut to help.
“Since we’ve been here, these police officers have been wonderful. There are two police officers from Connecticut who are stationed up there in South Windsor and have been down here with us since the time we got here," she said.
“As I think some of the people who are in our police departments, they’re never off-duty. They’re always there to help out and that’s exactly what he was doing," said Mayor Dr. M. Saud Anwar.
Since Mainieri joined the department in 1998, he rose through the ranks, working in traffic, detectives and most recently started a drone program.
Over the decades, he served as a firearms and motorcycle instructor, and received several awards including the department's Medal of Valor.
“I’d like to come out and say before you get that tear remember the smile, the great things he stood for and who he was," Pendleton said.
Police said they will help the family during this difficult time. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced, but the family said they plan to bring Mainieri to Burlington, Vt. for a Catholic mass and burial.