No one knows better the danger that a tense circumstance can present than police in the United States. Constantly under pressure to control people who are guaranteed rights that provide them a wide latitude of no control, the scenarios that citizens can present range from the mundane to sheer terror, even for a trained professional. With that thought, we continue to reflect on moments in the history of law enforcement we wish we could get back, the sacrifices of those that have paid the ultimate price on our behalf. Jersey City, New Jersey Jersey City sits just about full center in the Bergen Neck, between three bodies of water, with Newark on the west side, and New York City on the east side. It’s sometimes referred to as New York’s “Sixth Borough” due to is proximity, but also because of the dense access to public transportation between the two cities, not to mention both city’s port systems are serviced by the same agency. The movie Daylight played on the fears travelers have of the famous Holland Tunnel that runs under the Hudson River, further connecting Jersey City and New York. Jersey City is considered one of the most diverse cities in the world, statistically. Any large city is going to have problems. We’ve briefly discussed the heavy role that mass transit plays in Jersey City. Without that level of service, life in Jersey City would be cumbersome, and not conducive to the speed of commerce that business operates at. Sometimes that speed comes at a price, when it’s doesn’t line up with something else we contend with every day, the weather.
Officer Shawn Carson and Officer Robert Nguyen
Officer Shawn Carson was a 16-year veteran, and Officer Robert Nguyen was a six-year veteran, both from the Jersey City Police Department, on Christmas night, 2005, when they were on patrol. This Christmas night, Jersey City was the epicenter for passive weather incident that presented terrible challenges to everyone on the road. The lighting and warning equipment on the Lincoln Highway Bridge, between Jersey City and Kearny had failed, and the fog and misting rain was so think, that people could not see six inches in front of them. Both officers were part of Jersey City’s Emergency Services Unit, which is why they were out in a heavy-duty truck, trying to place flares on either side of the bridge, to warn drivers that the bridge was shut down. For reasons that are not published, as a tugboat approached the bridge, the bridge operator decided to open the bridge, to let it pass, but no alert was given to the officers. With the fog and rain playing games with depth perception, the officer’s Ford F-550 went off the bridge’s exposed center, and into the dirt-strewn, freezing water of the Hudson. Ninety minutes later, Officer Shawn Carson’s body was found floating on the water’s surface. It would take another 90 hours for divers from NYPD to find Officer Robert Nguyen.
To visit Officer Shawn Carson’s, or Officer Robert Nguyen’s pages at the Officer Down Memorial Page is a moment that would crack anyone’s heart to tears. Between the two, there are nearly 800 reflections, making them both very active pages. Reading the comments left behind is to understand just a fraction of the impact these two men had on their collective communities. Officer Shawn Carson was a part time track and field coach. Officer Robert Nguyen was well known by many in the community, and he spent a lot of time visiting people throughout Jersey City. Their reflections seem to suggest that he was constantly checking on people, seeing if they were ok, sounding as though he never really took a day off from work. The bridge has since been named Shawn Carson and Robert Nguyen Memorial Bridge. JCPD closes the bridge every Christmas night, setting off two wreaths in honor of the officers, declaring moments of silence that correspond with the released wreaths, with honors. It is quite clear that this community knows what they lost that day, how difficult of a loss this event was. No one thinks of setting flares to warn others as a dangerous task, but that’s because we take those tasks for granted, thank you to police officers like Shawn Carson and Robert Nguyen. The re-telling of Officer Robert Nguyen’s mother at the bridge, the day before he was found, is so heart wrenching, it’s impossible to repeat. We at CaseGuard truly can’t think of a worse feeling for any mother, and while it’s now 11 years, six months, and 15 days after this tragedy, we know that pain is ever present in both families lives.
In memory of Officer Shawn Carson and Officer Robert Nguyen.