HEARTS IN BLUE
by Daniel Murphy Jr.
In the last year I have gone to too many funerals of friends and loved ones that have not died of old age. It was this overwhelming emotion that hit me when four local Middletown policemen told me that Red Bank Detective Richard Coutu had passed away on Ash Wednesday, March 1st, 2003 at the age of 46. I had met and worked with him a dozen times over the last twenty-five years. He was always a gentleman a professional and one of those people you knew you would always remember.
Some twenty years ago he was soliciting local businessmen to donate bullet proof vests for our local law enforcement. I realize I could only provide one or two vests. I invited him to talk before the Red Bank Rotary. His presentation and demeanor netted over ten vests. We both walked out smiling.
Starting as patrolmen some twenty-five years ago he worked his way up to Detective. He worked in undercover narcotics investigations, murder cases, robberies, assaults, simple harassment cases and taught local business groups about fraud and shoplifting, all with the same degree of commitment. He was named “King” by his peers who presented him with a crown that was always visible in his office. He was the example by which all new officers followed.
In the cities and in the quietest of towns our policemen’s life are always at risk. In a drug raid in a house in Red Bank some fifteen years ago Detective Coutu was struck over the head with a large heavy flashlight by a woman suspect. The injury was substantial and in conversations with him years later he felt that this injury and extensive drugs used for rehabilitation had caused his physical condition to deteriorate.
From a brilliant and heart warming eulogy friend and partner Mark Fitzgerald I learned the other side of Richard Coutu’s life. He was a husband, a father of three teenagers, a coach, a son, a brother and a friend and mentor to the Men in Blue that he served. A dozen or more State Policemen and five times that many local Officers lined the entrance to the church and then inside stood in silent repose honoring their fallen comrade.
The faces of these Men in Blue, who usually see a lesser side of life, were etched with respect, sadness and loss. A Men in Blue drum and bagpipe corps led by Sergeant Doug Heat played a triumphant farewell and emotionally brought us all to our knees, their were no dry eyes. With an American flag draped over him, followed by family and friends, a father’s tears stopped my heart. As he left the church Officers lined his departure with bagpipes playing a final salute. Our community and country has lost another great man in the line of duty ..