TUXEDO PARK - He loved being a cop. He loved the still-new uniform he wore for the Tuxedo Park police force and in turn everyone - police, residents and friends - loved him.
The shock of Jason Conklin's death radiated throughout southern Orange County yesterday. But even a day later, there were more questions than answers.
The rookie officer died Thursday afternoon when the Ford Expedition police vehicle he was driving rolled over. He was ejected out the drivers side window, which was open at the time. The vehicle then rolled on top of him, according to Tuxedo Park Police Chief Bill Bortnowsky.
An autopsy was performed by Dr. Louis Roh at The Cornwall Hospital. Coroner James P. Fanning said that the cause of death was suffocation.
Conklin was apparently in pursuit of a speeder, Bortnowsky said. The crash is still under investigation.
"We currently are still waiting for completed reports from the Town of Tuxedo Police Department and the Town of Ramapo Police reconstruction team," he said.
The Expedition, a passenger utility vehicle, was examined by State Police. Ford Motor Company and an independent agency will both test its right axle.
They are also trying to identify the violator Conklin was chasing.
"It's tremendous the amount of help and support the community has offered through this," Bortnowsky said.
The Conklin family is not only a tradition on the Park police force, they also have strong ties to the communities of Southfields, Monroe, Blooming Grove and of course Tuxedo and Tuxedo Park.
Joseph Morrow, Conklin's cousin from Central Valley, called Jason and his siblings great kids. "Gee, I still call him a kid. I'm 25 years older, so I guess he'll always be a kid to me," Morrow said.
Conklin, a resident of Monroe, has three brothers and two sisters. He was only on the force for about a year, but the family said he fulfilled his dream by becoming an officer. And law enforcement is a family thing. Older brother David Conklin is the K-9 officer for the Town of Tuxedo Police Department. And there were two other family members who worked with the Tuxedo Park police.
Morrow's brother and Conklin's cousin, Robert, served the Tuxedo Park police force for 16 years.
Susan Goodfellow, mayor of Tuxedo Park, visited the Conklin family Thursday night to offer her condolences. She called the Conklins "an absolutely wonderful family. They are an important part of the community."
Conklin, a 1993 graduate of Monroe-Woodbury High School, loved to hunt, fish, and ski. While in high school he was a member of the school ski team.
He was a June graduate of the Rockland County Police Academy and was pursuing an associate's degree in criminal justice.
Bortnowsky said in his 21 years on the force an officer has never died in the line of duty. It's like losing family, he said.
One of Conklin's fellow officers, who didn't want to give his name, shook his head in disbelief, "He was a terrific guy to work with."
Friends at the Sterling Forest IBM plant where Conklin used to work, were too upset to say more than that they loved him.