amden Police Department Second Platoon Softball Team
L-R: Thomas DiPatri, John Cox , Bill Berman, Billy Berks, B. Ferrell, John
"6 of our guys out of the 7 in middle row are no longer with us. (Only Rich Chandler left)" - Billy Berks January 2017
New York Times * March 1, 1998
JERSEY; Where Disney World Meets Camden
By JOE SHARKEY
EVERYBODY does it, Elaine Bey had insisted. Stealing from the schools of Camden, a city whose children are the poorest in the country, was no big deal, she seemed to believe.
This attitude became breathtakingly clear one day last September, when Mrs. Bey, 55, strolled out of a Federal courtroom in Newark after pleading guilty to misusing school system money to treat herself and others to restaurants, liquor, entertainment, car rentals and personal vacations while she was president of the Camden School Board.
Outside the courtroom, a reporter asked what she was going to do now.
''I'm going to the ladies' room,'' she declared brightly, smiling into the cameras. ''And then I'm going to Disney World!''
Now Mrs. Bey will have to wait a while to take that vacation, as she is due to report to prison on March 30 to begin a five-month sentence that was imposed on her in January by a Federal judge. The judge also ordered her to pay back more than $23,000 in school system funds, and serve five months of house arrest after she gets out of jail.
If there were a criminal indictment of America's miserably failed urban policies, the city of Camden -- which stubbornly posted a 63 percent increase in homicides last year as the murder rate plunged almost everywhere else -- would be entered in evidence at the trial and labeled ''the smoking gun.'' Ordinarily, the amazing audacity exhibited by a school board president who steals and laughs it off could be shrugged off as just another of the incremental outrages in Camden, a city of about 80,000 that has been systematically pillaged by one political regime after another for the past 50 years and now stands out as perhaps the most wretched, God-forsaken city in America.
In this case, however, that brazen taunt -- ''I'm going to Disney World!'' -- was still very fresh in mind recently when I got a phone call telling me that Leroy Palmer -- a Camden police lieutenant who grew up in the city, attended its public schools and whose career ambition was to be a good cop -- had been shot and critically wounded while coming to another officer's aid during an undercover drug stakeout that went very bad, very fast, on the night of February 13.
All of a sudden, a few tiny disconnected wires in the tangled skein of abstract news touched and sparked with a personal jolt. Lieutenant Palmer's younger brother, Ralph, is married to my kid sister, Susan.
A Camden police officer for 23 years, Lieutenant Palmer, 46, went down in a gun battle at an East Camden intersection. The corner at Bank and Boyd Streets is a notorious drug market where dealers do a brisk business selling to customers who drive in from the suburbs to do the only shopping that still brings out-of-towners into Camden.
Lieutenant Palmer was coordinating the stakeout from an unmarked car just up the block. Dozens of arrests had already been made, and now the undercover officers were almost at the end of their tour.
Just before 11 P.M., though, a 38-year-old Williamstown man, informed that he was under arrest for buying crack cocaine from two undercover officers on the corner, pulled out a revolver and started firing. Joseph Badecki, 35, a state trooper, was the first one shot, in the arm. Tumbling out of the car, Lieutenant Palmer ran to the scene and was struck by a bullet that went through his side, pierced a lung and lodged near his spine. David Lick, 28, a detective with the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, was grazed on the head by another bullet.
The suspect, Byran Girard, was killed as the officers returned fire. The other two officers were treated and released at Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center. As of the other day, however, Lieutenant Palmer was still in critical condition at Cooper, breathing with the aid of a respirator -- and forcing himself to contemplate the horrible possibility that he may never walk again.
Lieutenant Palmer is known, personally and professionally, as an easygoing, decent man with a ready laugh. His wife, Terry, and his two children, Matt, 15, and Kristin, 12, are the center of his life. He was due for retirement in 16 months. After that, he and his wife had planned to move with their children to North Carolina.
''He's a fighter,'' said Ralph Palmer, 40, who grew up believing that his older brother could do anything, and who now believes that he will manage to get back on his feet before long. ''If anybody can do it, he can,'' he said.
Incidentally, Leroy Palmer loved to take his family to vacations in Florida, including Disney World.
The fervent hope here, as a cop who went down a hero on a thankless job tries to put a life back together, is that Leroy Palmer takes his family on that trip once again -- and that they get there first.
Obituary of Leroy G. Palmer
Leroy Palmer, 68, of Skippack PA, formally Berlin, NJ, passed on December 24, 2019, in Skippack PA. He was the beloved husband and best friend of Theresa Palmer.
Born November 3, 1951, in Camden NJ, was the son of the late Ralph Palmer. He was a retired police Lieutenant with the Camden Police Department. Lieutenant Palmer was shot in the line of duty in 1998 and was left a paraplegic. Lee’s passion for life was remarkable and paramount. He was a devoted father and big pop-pop. Lee’s greatest satisfaction was being surrounded by family and friends, as well as the many friends who supported and stood by him all these years.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his son Matthew Palmer, daughter in law Jill Palmer, grandchildren Jacob Lee and Reese Kelly of PA, daughter Krista Palmer of NJ, Mother Ella Palmer, and two brothers all of NJ. Lee was a devoted volunteer with Special Olympics and a Mason.
Relatives and friends are invited to greet the family from 10:00 a.m -11-30 a.m on Friday, January 3, 2020, at the R.L. Williams JR. Funeral Home Inc. 3440 Skippack Pike. Cedars PA 19423. In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation in memory of his name to the Camden County Hero Scholarship Fund. 162 W. White Horse Pike, Berlin NJ,08009. www.Camdencountyhero.com
RETURN TO CAMDEN'S INTERESTING PEOPLE PAGE
RETURN TO DVRBS.COM HOME PAGE