Michael Morgan Jr. was a hero.
That was the word mourners used Saturday to describe the Newark police detective shot to death early Monday morning in Paterson.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers and dozens of family members and friends gathered at St. Lucy's Roman Catholic Church on a blustery fall day to pay their final respects to a man best known for his sheer athleticism and dedication to his work.
"He was a mentor. He was a role model. He was a father figure. He was a legend," said Vincent Morgan, Michael Morgan's younger brother, during the two-hour-long service. "I wish I could be half the man he was."
Morgan, 32, of Belleville, was outside the Sunrise Lounge, a gentleman's club. Authorities said Morgan, who was off duty at the time, was protecting an unknown woman who was with him when he was shot in the torso. The officer was transported to St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, where he died. The unidentified female was unharmed.
Police arrested Jerome Wright, 24, the alleged shooter, and his girlfriend, Nashali Gadson, 19, Wednesday and .
Outside the Newark church Saturday morning, friends wept quietly as a fellow officer escorted Morgan's eight-point police hat through an assembly line of saluting officers. The cries became louder as Morgan's American flag-draped casket drove by in a hearse and was carried into the church.
"I thought back over the last six years that I watched Michael work," said Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio. "There was one word that stood out in my head. That word was impact. Michael was a man who left an impact on people, on places, on communities. He left an impact on wherever it was he went."
Morgan, who DeMaio and Newark Police Chief Sheilah Coley lauded as an integral part of last summer's community-oriented "," was posthumously awarded the department's Medal of Honor during the funeral. The department also presented Morgan's family with a shadowbox of his patrol and detective badges and said badge Nos. 1829 and 43 would be retired in his honor.
Morgan was promoted to the department's Special Investigations Unit the Friday before his death and was at the helm of recovering "dozens of guns off the streets this (past) summer," according to DeMaio.
"He was dignified. He was honorable. And he was one of our best and brightest stars," said Coley.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker called Morgan a "warrior … who didn't just wear the uniform, but embodied the very essence of hope for our country."
After the service, eight Newark police officers carried Morgan's casket from the church to the hearse as Newark Police Department and New Jersey State Police helicopters conducted a ceremonial flyover. Meanwhile, the hundreds of officers, from nearly a dozen agencies, saluted from the church's lawn.
Morgan is the by gunfire this year. He will be buried at Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield.