By EVERTON BAILEY Jr., Associated Press Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Thousands of police officers from across the country gathered Friday morning for the funeral of a Connecticut state trooper killed in a highway crash last week that authorities blame on an impaired driver.
Officers from as far away as California and Louisiana were among the crowd assembled at the State Armory in Hartford for the funeral of Trooper Kenneth Hall.
Police and civilians lined city streets as Connecticut troopers marched to the armory accompanied by drummers. Gov. M. Jodi Rell and other top state officials were on hand.
“He was not only a great friend, but he was an officer you would want by your side in any situation,” said Rell, who spoke at the service. “I can’t think of a better honor than that.”
Hall was killed Sept. 2 when a pickup truck went out of control and smashed into his cruiser after he had made a routine motor vehicle stop in the right shoulder of Interstate 91 northbound in Enfield.
“Pops was a funny guy,” said Tyco Hall, one of Hall’s seven adult children. “No matter where he went, he lit up the room. He was always 10-feet tall to me.”
The pickup driver, 32-year-old Michael Pajak of Enfield, was arrested on a fugitive charge Thursday in Waterville, Vt., at the home of relatives, after Connecticut authorities obtained a warrant charging him with manslaughter, DUI and other crimes.
Pajak was ordered held on $1 million bail Friday during an appearance in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington via a video conference from a jail. He didn’t enter a plea and balked at being extradited back to Connecticut, but a prosecutor said Pajak is expected to agree to extradition at another court appearance Monday.
Two Connecticut state troopers attended the court appearance wearing black bands across their badges in honor of Hall. They said they had hoped to return Pajak to Connecticut on the same day as Hall’s funeral.
Pajak’s attorney, James Sulick, told The Hartford Courant that his client didn’t flee to Vermont. Sulick said Pajak was expecting the warrant and was visiting relatives to talk with them before planning to turn himself in. Sulick declined to comment on the allegations.
After the crash, Hall, Pajak and a passenger in Pajak’s truck were taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass.
Hall was pronounced dead, and Pajak and the passenger were treated for their injuries.
On Tuesday, Pajak appeared in Springfield District Court on an unrelated charge of driving with a suspended license filed by Massachusetts authorities. He paid a $675 fine and was freed the same day. Connecticut authorities had not obtained their arrest warrant for Pajak at the time of his release.
Connecticut court records show Pajak has a criminal record that includes a citation for distracted driving in May, a conviction for driving with a suspended license in 2000 and jail time for assault and drug crimes.
Associated Press Writer John Curran in Burlington, Vt., contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)