Sgt. Jim Garber of the Gloucester Township, N.J. police deparment is greeted by Deputy Chief Dave Harkins, left, and Chief Harry Earle upon his release from a hospital on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (Gannett, Jodi Samsel/(Cherry HIll, N.J.) Courier-Post)
By Phil Dunn, Courier-Post Staff
GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP, N.J. - Even the roar of motorcycle engines could not drown out the cheers for police Sgt. Jim Garber, who returned home from the hospital Sunday just days after being shot on duty.
Garber, 43, was the most seriously wounded of three officers struck by gunfire inside the township's police station on Friday morning. Authorities say a man arrested for stalking a former girlfriend overpowered and disarmed an officer around 5 a.m., then opened fire inside the Chews Landing Road headquarters.
The suspect, 39-year-old Eddie Jones III, was shot dead at the scene.
Police cars, firetrucks, and motorcyclists from clubs across South Jersey led a caravan from Cooper University Hospital in Camden to Garber's home. Hundreds of people lined the streets, clapping and cheering.
"I just want to thank everyone for their support," Garber told the large crowd outside his home. "I don't think I deserve it ... but I appreciate it very much."
Gloucester Township Police Chief Harry Earle and Deputy Chief David Harkins were the first to greet Garber outside his home. The officer embraced his wife, Gina, and other family members as he made his way inside.
"I was really happy to see him come home," said 11-year-old Jake Hunt, who watched Garber's return with members of Cub Scout Troop 811. "It was good to see people come together and support him. It was a great experience."
Michael "Axel" Malagoli rode his motorcycle from Forked River, Ocean County, to show support with other members of the Warriors' Watch Riders. He called it an honor to help lead the wounded officer home.
"I heard him thanking us, but I want to thank him for putting his life on the line every day to keep the people of this community safe," Malagoli said.
Gloucester Township Police Capt. Anthony Minosse was overwhelmed by the show of support for his fellow officers. "This is great," he said. "We are thankful for the support of the community and even more so that everyone returned home safe."
Authorities said Jones overpowered rookie officer Ruth Burns as he was being processed after his arrest. Garber and Sgt. Kevin Thyne were shot after they rushed to help Burns.
Authorities said bullets grazed the heads of both sergeants. Garber, a 13-year veteran, was shot in the abdomen and had another slug hit a protective vest over his chest. He underwent surgery at Cooper and was released Sunday afternoon.
A slug also hit Thyne's duty belt, lacerating the stomach of the eight-year veteran. Burns was shot in the foot.
Thyne and Burns, who were treated and released after being shot, attended Sunday's homecoming.
The state Attorney General's Office will review the shooting, which is customary for police-involved shootings.
But Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk said initial evidence shows the officers fired back at Jones to save their lives and those of other officers in the building.
Reach Phil Dunn at (856) 486-2456 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @philmdunn.