03/12/2004

Heart Attack Likely Cause of N.J. Officer's Death

Officer Down: Sgt. Ken Brown - [Atlantic City, New Jersey]

By Bridget Murphy, The Press

Atlantic City, N.J. -- Despite intervention by a citizen who picked up Sgt. Ken Brown's radio and called for help, the 27-year Police Department veteran died in the line of duty after a suspected heart attack in his patrol car Wednesday.

Brown, a 52-year-old father of six who lived in Galloway Township, had a minor car accident in front of police headquarters at California and Atlantic avenues at 9:18 p.m. as he returned to the building to do paperwork following a fight and two arrests at the high school, authorities said Thursday.

An unidentified citizen found Brown in the car, with a door open, and used his radio to call for help, Police Chief Arthur Snellbaker said. But the sergeant could not be revived after authorities took him to the Atlantic City Medical Center, City Division, police said.

Authorities said they do not believe Brown's role in breaking up the fight at the high school was related to his death. The fight broke during a high school basketball game in which Lenape was playing Pennsauken in a state Group IV semifinal.

Police arrested two boys on charges of assault and disorderly conduct and one person went to the hospital to be checked for a jaw injury, Lt. Michael Tullio said.

Brown, whose wife of 16 years works in the city's communications bureau, became a sergeant in 2001 and served in many Police Department units during his career, including as a detective and a hostage negotiator.

He also served in the Army National Guard.

Brown made national news in December when he signed complaints against two cable TV installers who allegedly tied a cat to the back of a truck and dragged it along Route 30. Brown was off-duty at the time he witnessed the incident and used his department radio to call for a patrol car to stop the suspects.

When an examination of the animal's corpse later showed it was dead before it was tied to the bumper, authorities dismissed charges against one suspect and downgraded charges the other faced.

Snellbaker remembered Brown on Thursday as someone who not only knew how to look stylish on the golf course, but as someone who had a sense of fair play at work.

The chief recalled picking another candidate over Brown for a promotion at one point, and said that Brown never held a grudge against him for it.

"He didn't have a problem with being treated fairly," the chief said. "He was a good policeman, and that will be his legacy."

Snellbaker, who survived two heart attacks himself, said he spoke to Mayor Lorenzo Langford about starting a police wellness program in the wake of Brown's death.

A member of the county prosecutor's Major Crime Unit volunteered Thursday to witness Brown's autopsy - which will determine the sergeant's exact cause of death - to spare his Police Department colleagues from what would have been a difficult assignment, Public Safety Director Bob Flipping said.

Brown's viewing will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday and from 10 a.m. to noon Monday at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Roman Catholic Church at Tennessee and Pacific avenues. The funeral will follow Monday's viewing.

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