City department overwhelmed by support

Officer Matthew Hazelton’s unfortunate passing brought out support from all over the area.

On behalf of the city of Dunkirk Police Department and the Dunkirk Police Benevolent Association (PBA) we want to express our most sincere gratitude for the outpouring of support we received when our beloved K-9 Officer Matthew Hazelton passed away. We had two priorities during this very heartbreaking time for us. First was to do everything we could to comfort and help Matt’s wife, Jennifer, daughter, Ava, and their family through this very difficult time for them. The second was to honor Matthew with the respect and honor he earned and deserved for his dedicated service to our community.

First and foremost, we want to thank the Hazelton family for allowing us to honor Matthew with the Active Line of Duty Police Officer Services that he absolutely earned and deserved. Jennifer is an amazing young lady and has wonderful support from her family. Our thoughts and prayers remain with them.

Law enforcement is often a thankless service but throughout the very difficult week of Matthew’s funeral as we struggled with our loss we learned that our Brothers and Sisters in Law Enforcement and Fire Service as well as the residents and business people of our area communities are the best any Police Department could ever ask for. The support we received from all of them was nothing short of amazing and that support continues to this day. We truly are blessed to have such caring Brothers and Sisters in the Police and Fire Service and we again are truly blessed to serve such wonderful and caring people of our communities.

Police officers from across the state turned out in hundreds for the Funeral Home and Church Services. The assistance provided by the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office with Planning, Patrols and the Fredonia Police Department for their Patrol Officers during the week was incredible. Special thanks to Deputy Jake Stahley and Retired Deputy Tina Holtz for their countless hours of support with the planning. The Jamestown Police Department sent their Honor Guard and Erie County Sheriff’s Office their bagpiper. Every Police Department in our county and officers from New York State Police, Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara counties, state and federal officers as well as officers from many cities, counties, towns and villages from across the state arrived to show their respect for Matthew. K-9 officers with their partners came from everywhere. Their presence and comforting words of respect for Matthew gave us strength as we struggled with our loss. The Dunkirk Joint Veterans Council provided the firing Squad and Brandon Katta played “Taps” for the services.

The city of Dunkirk Fire Departments show of Respect during Matthew’s services was outstanding. The Dunkirk and Fredonia Fire Departments provided the Aerial Trucks to fly the flag at Fourth Street and Central Avenue with the flag coming from Mayville Fire Department via Emergency Services Director Julius Leone. Sheridan Fire Department provided the bunting for Police Headquarters. Many other Fire Departments from our county sent representatives to pay their respects. The County Fire Police Team came with no questions asked to provide assistance with traffic control.

Just as amazing was the support we received from citizens and businesses from our area communities. Countless numbers of people stopping to say they were sorry or drop off baked goods and food. Painted rocks and flowers left at the wreath in front of HQ were beautiful and heart wrenching. We received countless cards and letters of sympathy, some from places as far away as Indiana, North Carolina and Texas. Resident Steve Helwig offered us the use of his driveway to set up for the end of watch last call at the church services. One anonymous city resident gave a very large donation to help with costs to set up a permanent memorial for Matthew. These are just a few examples of the support we received.

Local businesses stepped up without hesitation and were honored to help us have the best of what we needed for Matthew’s Service. Many donated items for the services and others helped with financial support for the expenses. Our many thanks to: Cody Britton from Southpaw Signs/Smith & Smith Trophies, Bruce & Ann Mulkin from Paper Factory, Nancy Persch from Copy Boy, Michael Zeigler from Paul’s Limousine Service, Steve St. George from S. St.George Construction, Stacy Timmerman from Shorewood Country Club, Marcy Pakulski and Ray Navarro from Jamestown Plastics, Teft Glass, Seasonal Designs and Freay Funeral Home, Nicole Mason and Jamie Russell from Its Your Day, Chris Wichlacz from Emergency Services and the Brocton American Legion and Ladies Auxiliary.

We want to thank Mayor Wilfred Rosas, the city administration, DPW, many city employees, Judge Walter Drag and chief Court Clerk Jean Dill for their caring support.

Heartfelt thanks to Photographer Ben Kravitz for the amazing photos, video and framed pictures. Joey Conti for his assistance with the photos. Thanks to John and Harry Kowal from McGraw-Kowal for all their assistance with the services. We want to thank our local media — WDOE and the OBSERVER — for covering the arrangements and services with dignity and respect.

A very special thanks to Father Dan Walsh from Holy Trinity Church for his guidance during a very difficult time and for the wonderful service for Matthew. And a special thanks also to the wives of the Dunkirk Police Department officers for their assistance with preparations for the services and for being the rocks that stood behind our officers as we struggled with our loss.

Finally we want to commend all the men and women of the city of Dunkirk Police Department for working through a very difficult time in our department history. The honor and respect shown to Matthew and his family was second to none. Although our hearts are broken and Matthew is gone from us, he will never be forgotten. Dedication, integrity, honor and respect are the words that describe K-9 Officer Matthew L. Hazelton. The legacy that he leaves us with will live on forever as he truly will be one of the best to ever walk the Halls of the Dunkirk Police Department and serve the citizens of our Truly Amazing Community.

Rest in Peace our Dear Brother, we have it from here and please know that Jenn and Ava will forever be part of the DPD family. As a family we are and will always be DPD Strong!!!

David C. Ortolano is Dunkirk police chief and Sgt. Mark N. Gruber is the Dunkirk PBA president.