MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) — An off-duty police officer vacationing from Connecticut died after trying to break up a fight, according to officials, and now residents of his hometown are mourning his loss.
Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson and the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office continue to review evidence in the case of a Connecticut police officer who was killed while off-duty in Murrells Inlet during the weekend.
“Members of the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office has been working around the clock and continues to investigate the death of off-duty Sgt. Matthew Mainieri with the South Windsor Police Department,” said Jimmy Richardson, Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor. “The Sheriff’s Office has been consulting with the Solicitor’s Office in the case. However, it is still very early in the investigation and the autopsy has not yet been completed. Once the autopsy and the investigation are complete, a decision will be made by law enforcement authorities as to any additional charges in the case.”
The man charged in that deadly altercation outside Uncle Tito’s bar in Murrells Inlet is now out on bond. Kelton Todd, 21, of Aynor is charged with assault of a high and aggravated nature following the incident, but upgraded charges are likely.
According to the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office, Todd sucker punched Sgt. Matthew Mainieri, 41, an off-duty police officer from South Windsor, Connecticut around 12:30 a.m. during an altercation outside Uncle Tito’s in Murrells Inlet.
An incident report from the GCSO states a deputy and another man were performing CPR on the victim when a corporal arrived at the bar.
Responding law enforcement was also told the suspect had left the bar and was heading toward the parking lot north of the Crooked Floor Tavern, the report stated.
Sgt. Mainieri was transported to Waccamaw Hospital and died as a result of his injuries shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday, according to the GCSO.
According to Georgetown County Coroner Kenny Johnson, Mainieri died from blunt force trauma to the head. He added this is a preliminary finding and the coroner’s office is waiting for lab analysis to complete the autopsy which is expected to take several weeks.
Johnson said he can’t say where in the head Mainieri was struck, but he is expected to release that information once the autopsy is finalized.
According to the South Windsor Police Department Facebook page, Mainieri was an 18-year member of the department and served as a Traffic Investigator/Reconstructionist and Criminal Investigator.
“It is with profound sadness that the members of the South Windsor Police Department mourn the death of Sergeant Matthew Mainieri,” said South Windsor Deputy Chief Scott P. Custer in a statement. “Police Sergeant Matthew Mainieri #155 died this afternoon of injuries sustained in an off-duty incident in South Carolina last night while trying to break up a fight.”
Grand Strand locals said Maineiri was a gentle giant, known as always being kind and friendly, and ready to lend a helping hand.
Bouncer David Crosby was inside Uncle Tito’s Saturday night. He wishes he could have done more to help out the fallen officer.
“Everything happened so fast, there wasn’t nothing you could do,” Crosby said.
Maineiri was killed after trying to break up a fight outside of the bar. That’s when he was allegedly struck by Todd.
“We was like, ‘Listen man, if you’re gonna be starting trouble with everybody you need to go outside. You need to leave,’” Crosby said. Next thing I know, a big ol’ fight broke out.”
Some are calling for the bar to increase security.
“Every time I went in there, there was some kind of altercation,” said Joni, a bar patron. “I would never go back there again unfortunately. If it always that way beforehand, there’s no way I’m putting myself in that predicament again.”
According to NBC Connecticut, black bunting has been hung at the South Windsor Police Department as police grieve privately and still do the job of protecting the town.
After Mainieri’s passing, the town is remembering his decades of service to the community.
“We’re very devastated about what happened. This town lost a great hero,” said Robin Pendleton, of South Windsor.
Friends of Mainieri, along with the mayor, started a makeshift memorial outside the police department on Sunday.
“This is the worst possible news one can imagine and we are totally heartbroken,” said South Windsor Mayor Dr. M. Saud Anwar.
Lesley with GCSO, “Mr. Todd is being held without bail on his original charge of Assault of a High and Aggravated Nature. Investigators are gathering witness testimony to determine the upgraded charge… Mr. Todd will remain in custody regardless.”
According to information on the Georgetown County Detention Center’s website, however, Todd was released from jail Monday shortly before 12:30 p.m. on a $35,000 bond. No additional charges were listed.
WMBF News has reached out to Lesley for more information.
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