Colleagues and friends recalled 29-year-old Aberdeen Police Department Officer Charles Armetta, killed Saturday after falling off an I-95 bridge, as a passionate and fun-loving person who was a major part of the department.
Now, he is also the first Aberdeen officer to die suddenly, Police Chief Henry Trabert said.
"As far as his impact on the department and the community, he was second to none," Aberdeen Police Cpl. Will Reiber said Tuesday, calling Ofc. Armetta crucial to the narcotics unit.
"You can't even talk about replacing a guy like that," Reiber said. "That guy would do anything to make a case and put a case together that was solid and done constitutionally and would have a positive outcome."
Ofc. Armetta, who lived in Joppa, had just finished the department's police training with his dog, Maverick.
On Monday, he would have celebrated the first birthday of his daughter, Adrianna, together with his wife, Heather.
Trabert called him "one of our finest police officers" and said the department has never before faced the sudden death of an officer.
"We have never had... an officer die so tragically," he said. "We have never felt the shock of a sudden passing."
"He actually made a big difference in the community, made a big difference in the department," Trabert said. "Not only was he a good police officer but he was a loyal, dedicated person, father to his 1-year-old daughter, brother, son a man with many friends."
Trabert said the department brought in grief counselors for officers and is trying to help Ofc. Armetta's wife and daughter.
"We are doing everything we can to support the family," he said. "Anything the family needs, we will be there."
Messages of support from the community at large have also been coming in.
"He was really loved and he will really be missed by the law enforcement community, by his family and friends," Trabert said. "We have been getting a lot of calls, not only from the law enforcement community but citizens, people from all over, have been calling in with their condolences. It's pretty overwhelming and it doesn't surprise me because he was so well-liked."
The Aberdeen City Council announced Monday it was canceling its meeting that night "out of great respect and deep sorrow" after the officer's passing.
Black banners were draped above the Aberdeen police sign on the department's building, as well as a police car parked symbolically in front.
Reiber, who met Ofc. Armetta when he graduated from the police academy, said he showed "empathy and compassion and the ability to go out and tackle problems."
He said the death has definitely hit the department hard because it was totally unexpected.
"You lose a guy that's 29 years old who has a young child and is a very caring father and all that, it's a real tragedy – that his daughter... will never get to know the real value of him as a person," Reiber said.
Reiber said Ofc. Armetta was one of the "five percent of law enforcement" that go above and beyond, taking on additional assignments.
"There's not a lot of guys like that. In each department, you only have so many," he said.