A sea of blue uniforms filled Pavonia Avenue in Jersey City hours before the funeral procession was scheduled to start on Jan. 11. City police officers, joined by police from around the state and region, came to pay their respects to Lt. Christopher Robateau.
On his way to work and wearing his uniform, Robateau was struck and killed on the New Jersey Turnpike on Jan. 5 while walking to help the driver of a stranded truck.
Robateau, 49, was a 13-year-veteran of Jersey City Police Department, working the East District, which includes downtown and the waterfront.
The mass funeral gathering is traditional for fallen officers, to give comfort to their survivors and to show that the officer is part of a much larger brotherhood. The painful ritual and procession of honor paid tribute to a man who lost his life trying to help others.
Capt. Edgar Martinez of the North District, hurrying through the crowd of cops, called them to order. Many were clearly emotional, a few even struggling to hide their tears.
With newly-appointed Police Chief Mike Kelly were nearly all of the top police brass, as well as Mayor Steven Fulop, Public Safety Director James Shea, and most of the City Council. They stood outside McLaughlin Funeral Home as mourners climbed into a police van for the seven-block drive to St. Aeden’s Church for the funeral mass, and the immediate family climbed into a hearse.
Row after row of Jersey City cops followed in silence, with only the buzz of a state police helicopter overhead.
Former Police Chief (and former Ward A Councilman) Frank Gajewski shook his head, saying, “There are too many of these.” He said he had witnessed this ritual too many times over his long police career.
Leading the procession was a color guard of local police and mounted officers from the New York City Police Department, accompanied by the traditional one horse without a rider.
Robateau, who was married with three children, had joined the force in 1994, and was promoted to lieutenant in October 2014.
“This is very sad,” Shea said. “Christopher is part of the next generation of leadership for the department. We saw him as part of the future of the department, those who will take over from the current leadership when their time comes. We all know who they are; these are good police officers; he was a good police officer.”
To comment on this story on-line, go to our website, www.hudsonreporter.com. Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com