A Connecticut police officer who suffered fatal injuries trying to break up a bar fight while on vacation was remembered Tuesday in his hometown in Vermont.
A funeral for Sgt. Matt Mainieri, 41, of the South Windsor Police Department was held in Colchester, before his burial in Burlington.
“I love my uncle,” Dan Cousino said after the funeral. “He was a great man. That legacy’s going to be hard to fulfill.”
Investigators in South Carolina said the 20-year veteran officer was on vacation when he jumped in to help break up a bar fight. In doing so, he was assaulted and later died of a head injury, according to the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office.
Kelton Todd, 21, is now facing an involuntary manslaughter charge for allegedly striking Mainieri with his fist. Media reports described the blow as a “sucker-punch.”
“Almost every cop I know would’ve done that,” funeral attendee Chief Brandon del Pozo of the Burlington Police Department said of Mainieri leaping into action to break up the fight. “You don’t have to know a man to know that he was one of your brothers, and I think that the cops at the funeral today and across the state feel that way.”
Mainieri was remembered for his work ethic and eagerness to help people. And he started early, serving Colchester Rescue as a young man, among other jobs.
“He was the cream of the crop of his graduating class,” remembered Kevin Kirkpatrick, who said he employed Mainieri at his gas station when Mainieri was a teenager. “He was the most reliable, the most truthful, hard-working.”
Kirkpatrick said he wasn’t surprised Mainieri would go onto a career in public service.
The motorcycle officer loved to ride off-duty, too. His police bike was parked outside the church, with colleagues on theirs as part of the funeral procession—each pledging to honor the memory of Matt Mainieri: a man who so often put others first.