Montgomery County police officers are mourning the death of a 28-year veteran of the force.
Lt. Joseph Mattingly Jr., 51, lost control of his car while driving westbound on Bradley Blvd. near the I-495 overpass around 3:30 a.m. Saturday.
Investigators aren't sure what caused the unmarked cruiser to skid off the roadway, hitting a tree. No eyewitnesses have been found, and it appears no other vehicles were involved.
Two women found Mattingly, called for help, and stayed with him until rescue workers arrived. He was rushed by ambulance to Fairfax Inova Hospital, but died a short time later.
Mattingly's personnel file included glowing reports, including some from citizens. One reads, "You could have made a great training video on how to treat people by recording his efforts. He did not just make a token effort and brush us off. He had a great attitude all the time. You can be very proud of this guy. He is the best I (have) ever run across, period."
Even people stopped for traffic violations had good things to say about Mattingly. One driver wrote, ""We don't hear about the Police Officers who exercise wisdom and judgment in handling the problems they encounter, officers who are willing to listen courteously to a citizen's words, officers who are firm but kind, who can correct another person without degrading them. Sgt. Mattingly was that kind of police officer when he stopped me for a traffic infraction yesterday evening."
His supervisors also thought highly of Mattingly. A recent performance review stated, "Lt. Mattingly's commitment to the department and the community he serves is best demonstrated by the fact that during the past year he has received over 20 letter or emails of appreciation from members of the community. It should be noted that most of these citizen acknowledgements have come about from actions that he took while in an off-duty capacity -- again demonstrating his commitment. These letters characterize how Joe performs the responsibilities he swore to commit his life to so many years ago. He places the well being of all others first and foremost above his own needs. His simple acts of kindness so profoundly impacted the lives of these families that they will never forget the Montgomery County Police Department."
Police who talked to News4 say that perfectly describes the leader they lost.
"We are grieving, and we feel horrible. We'll land on our feet, but it's very difficult.
Mattingly had been with the Montgomery County police department for 28 years. He could have retired several years ago, but chose to keep working.
"He is undoubtedly one of those people who is dedicated to serve, completely unselfishly.. and he died serving," said one officer. He leaves behind a wife and four children.
Police say they may never know what caused the accident. They're asking anyone who may have information about the accident to call (301) 840-2435.