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Police and Community Mourn Death of SW Ontario Officer

Officials with provincial police, Chatham-Kent police and Walpole Island police held a joint news conference to share their grief, but refused to discuss details of the ongoing investigation into Const. Paul Neudert's death.

Neudert, 42, died Tuesday morning when the cruiser he was driving collided in heavy fog with a vehicle driven by another Walpole Island officer.

Sgt. Lyle Johnson remains in fair condition in hospital, said provincial police Const. Luke George.

John Trudeau, Walpole Island's police chief, said he is ``devastated'' by Neudert's death.

Neudert had been with the Walpole service for four years. Trudeau described the father of two young children as a ``loving family man.''

Insp. Wes Dore of Chatham-Kent police and Staff Sgt. Doug Babbitt of provincial police said both services regularly worked with the Walpole Island police.

``Members in small communities such as Walpole Island and Wallaceburg become close, along with their families,'' Dore said. ``This is very, very difficult for some members who have known the officers for a number of years.''

Babbitt has seen two of his officers killed on Highway 401 in the last three years.

``This is something we never wanted to experience again, and here we are,'' he said.

Joe Gilbert, chief of Walpole Island, said the reserve has lost a fine man.

``This is the loss of a very active police officer in this community,'' Gilbert said. ``He was involved with more than just policing, being a part of the community as a whole. His loss is something we all feel.''

Neudert is the first peace officer to die in the line of duty with the Walpole Island service.

Neudert and Johnson were believed to be headed for the provincial police detachment in nearby Petrolia when they collided at an intersection.

``It will take some sorting, but we will get through it,'' Gilbert said.

He added Neudert's wife is ``coping as best she can.''

With the death of Neudert and the injury to Johnson, the Walpole service is down to four full-time officers.

``I want to express my deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Const. Paul Neudert,'' Premier Ernie Eves said in a statement.

``His death is a sad reminder that police officers risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe.'' (Chatham Daily News)

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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