02/13/2004

Alabama Officer Struck By Car Dies

Officer Down: Matthew Thompson - [Mobile, Alabama]

By Ron Colquitt, The Mobile Register

Mobile, Ala. police Cpl. Matthew Thompson, struck by a car Wednesday while working at the scene of a wreck in west-central Mobile, died Thursday morning at a Mobile hospital, authorities said.

Thompson, 43, who was struck about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday while in the 4600 block of Spring Hill Avenue, died at the University of South Alabama Medical Center, said Officer Eric Gallichant, a Mo bile police spokesman. Thompson was with the Mobile Police Department for 18 years.

The 4th Precinct officer was hit as he and other officers were helping to load one of the vehicles involved in the earlier crash onto a wrecker.

Thompson's family issued a statement Thursday night through the Police Department. It said: "Leeann, Cpl. Thompson's wife of 21 years, said she was grateful to all of Matthew's friends and fellow officers for their prayers and support during this difficult time.

"Matthew and Leeann have three children, Danielle, 19, Matthew Jr., 17, and Charrlene , 16. Matt was a wonderful husband and father and will be sadly missed by everyone."

Gallichant said Terrell Nord, 19, of Mobile was driving the car that struck Thompson.

No charges filed:

The accident remained under investigation late Thursday, and no charges had been filed against Nord, the spokesman said.

Police Chief Sam Cochran said Nord volunteered a blood sample to be tested for the presence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident.

The speed limit is 35 mph on Spring Hill avenue, where the officer was hit, Cochran said. He said it had not been determined how fast Nord's car was traveling when it struck Thompson.

Thompson was not wearing a reflective vest at the time he was struck as he walked along the street near the wrecked vehicles, the chief said. Officers are issued reflective vests to wear when working wrecks or other incidents at night in traffic, Cochran said.

Rain possible factor:

Gallichant said Wednesday night that rainy weather may have been a factor in the accident.

Cochran said investigators will determine whether Thompson should have been wearing the protective vest.

"I don't want to say at this point if he should have been wearing a vest, because it's still under investigation," he said.

Tracy Stewart, Nord's mother, said Thursday that her son and other family members were deeply concerned about the officer.

The accident is affecting her son "very badly," Stewart said before the officer's death was announced.

"He can hardly sleep," she said. "I had him in the room with me last (Wednesday) night, and he didn't want to go to sleep without the TV on. He is very concerned about the officer, and we have prayed and grieved for his family.

"We are not taking it lightly. Terrell wanted to go out to the hospital last night and check on him, but we didn't think it was the right time."

Stewart said she and Nord live off Zeigler Boulevard, near the scene of the accident.

Nord assembles furniture at Standard Furniture in Bay Minette, and he had just dropped off a co-worker and was headed home when he struck the officer, Stewart said.

She said her son swallowed some glass when a window in the car was shattered by the impact. She said he was taken to Springhill Medical Center, where he was X-rayed, treated and released.

A check of Mobile County court records confirmed Stewart's statement that her son has never gotten into any legal problems.

A good officer:

Cochran said he had known Thompson for years, considered him a good officer and is deeply concerned for his family.

He was a "go-getter," the chief said.

"He had worked in a number of areas," Cochran said. "He worked a number of years in homicide and did a fine job in homicide."

Cochran described Thompson as "an outgoing person," well-respected by his fellow officers and quick to assist them.

"He was a good, hard worker with a pleasant attitude," the chief said.

Dick Cashdollar, Mobile's public safety director, who was in Pennsylvania visiting his mother Thursday, said the accident shows that police work is inherently dangerous.

"What goes through your mind when you hear about this is that over the last number of years, traffic accidents or traffic-related accidents have been the single greatest cause of in-the-line-of-service deaths in the Police Department," Cashdollar said said.

People generally think of shootouts when they hear that an officer has been injured or killed, he said.

"Many police officers actually lose their lives in traffic-related incidents," Cashdollar said. "It's a real tragedy and just shows you that the day-to-day activities of police officers are hazardous."

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