By Nicholas Rondinone and Peter Marteka The Hartford Courant
SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. — As South Windsor mourned the loss of a dedicated police officer Tuesday, authorities in South Carolina released a police report that showed how four people tried to keep Sgt. Matthew Mainieri alive after he was struck in the head while officials said he was attempting to break up a bar fight.
Mainieri, a 20-year veteran of the department, was at Uncle Tito’s in Murrells Inlet, S.C., when a fight broke out. As he attempted to end the scuffle, he was hit in the head, officials have said.
Meanwhile in South Windsor Tuesday, black and blue bunting lay over the entrance sign at the police station Tuesday. Painted rocks were left in the flower garden at the bottom of the flag pole. A dozen bouquets of flowers were placed outside the police department’s entrance. A toy motorcycle was placed on the flowers.
A Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office corporal arrived at 12:45 a.m. Sunday and saw Mainieri laying outside the bar in a dirt lot. Mainieri’s shirt had been pulled up, and he was flanked by four people, all trying to keep him alive, the corporal’s report read.
A sheriff’s deputy and two nurses were alternating to perform chest compressions, the corporal reported, as an unknown man forced air into Mainieri’s body.
With emergency medical services on their way, a group gathered on the porch of the bar to watch the four work to keep Mainieri alive, the corporal reported. Before additional help arrived, one of the nurses told the corporal that Mainieri still had a pulse.
By the time the corporal arrived, some 15 minutes after the fight was reported, the man suspected of striking Mainieri fled in a silver GMC. The corporal said he went after the suspect, but could not track him down, so he returned to the bar.
Mainieri had already been loaded into an ambulance, and an EMT told the corporal that he no longer had a pulse, the report said. Mainieri was rushed to Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital.
South Windsor police Deputy Chief Scott Custer said Tuesday that Mainieri’s injuries were fatal. “We have lost a wonderful officer, supervisor and friend,’’ Custer said.
By 4:15 a.m. Sunday, nearly four hours after the fight broke out, sheriff’s deputies found the suspect.
Kelton Todd, 21, of Aynor, S.C., was charged with assault of a high and aggravated nature in connection with Mainieri’s injury. He faced separate charges of third-degree asault and battery for the three others injured in the scuffle, police said.
Todd was released Monday after posting $35,000 bail, officials said. It is unclear if he will face additional charges as the sheriff’s office continues their investigation. A date has not yet been set for him to face a judge, according to the county solicitor’s office.
The corporal’s report of the incident does not offer details into what prompted the fight or when Mainieri intervened.
News of Mainieri’s death spread quickly up to Connecticut, where the 41-year-old South Windsor resident had amassed a distinguished career with his local police department.
Through his two decades with the department, he had served in the traffic and detectives divisions, spent time with the regional accident reconstruction unit and a regional emergency services unit where he was known as a skilled explosives breacher, according to Custer.
His services for the department had come with a number of recognition including a Medal of Valor and a chief’s award, officials said.
Former police chief Matthew Reed called Mainieri “a chief’s dream.”
He was one of those guys who couldn’t get enough of the job,” said Reed, who was a member of the department from 1987-2015 – the last five as chief.
“From the time he started with the department as a community service officer through his time as a sworn officer, Matt was always looking to take on additional responsibilitie,” Reed said. “He never wanted anything in return other than the chance to maximize his training opportunities so that he could provide the best service possible to the community.”
Reed said he was “smart, conscientious, kind, approachable and remarkably dedicated to the law enforcement community.”
Reed said: “I recall watching him interact with the kids in one of our summer youth academy programs. He was incredible. Matt was a big guy, so he could be a bit intimidating. But, the kids immediately warmed up to him as he began his presentation. He was talking about his experiences on the regional emergency response team. He had all of his gear with him. The kids were clamoring for the chance to don some of the protective gear and interact one on one with Matt. The class was one of the best and Matt made it that way…He has certainly left a lasting legacy.”
Mayor M. Saud Anwar said the town is “heartbroken because of this loss.”
“Sgt. Mainieri lived a hero and died a hero. He leaves an enormous void in our town. His presence and smile brought comfort to all around him. We feel like we too lost a family member,” he said.
In the tight-knit Connecticut law enforcement community, condolesences were spread across social media.
“His absence will be felt dearly by all here at the Connecticut State Police, especially those in the Traffic and Motorcycle units. Sgt Mainieri will not be forgotten,” the state police said in a post on Facebook.
Bruce and Neal Maneeley brought dozens of sandwiches, cookies and beverages to the department Tuesday morning. They did the same at Troop C a few months ago after the death of Trooper Kevin Miller.
“It’s just what you do during times like this,” said Bruce Maneeley of Maneeley’s Banquet and Catering. “He was a cop for 20 years in town. He was a regular guy, down-to-earth. These are good people putting their lives on the line for us.”
Bruce Maneeley said they are already planning on bringing breakfast on Wednesday.
“It’s what being part of a community is all about,” he said.