Slain Arizona officer had roots in New Jersey

Slain Arizona officer had roots in New Jersey

Lt. Eric Shuhandler
Lt. Eric Shuhandler

Lt. Eric Shuhandler, a Gilbert, Ariz., police officer slain in the line of duty, was remembered by his best friend from his childhood in Marlboro as the “nicest guy you would ever want to meet” and “passionate” about his career in law enforcement.

“Eric was caring and loving and happy-go-lucky, always in a good mood,” said Steve Kramer. “He never got into fights. He never got into arguments. It was just so shocking.”

Shuhandler, 42, died Jan. 28, shortly after being shot during a traffic stop at a strip mall in Phoenix. He pulled over two men in a pickup truck at about 10:42 p.m. for having an obscured license plate, said Sgt. Mark Marino, a spokesman for the Gilbert police department.

Shuhandler went back to his patrol car, found that the passenger apparently had an outstanding arrest warrant, and called for backup. He was walking back to the passenger side of the truck when he was shot, about 12 minutes after pulling the suspects over.

Shuhandler was rushed to a hospital, where he died shortly before midnight.

He is survived by his parents, Dara and Martin of Monroe.

Kramer, reached by NJJN at his home in Wellington, Fla., said the two of them attended and became bar mitzva at Temple Shaari Emeth in Manalapan.

He recalled going to other friends’ b’nei mitzva celebrations with Shuhandler, competing in sports — Kramer said they always found themselves on opposing Little League teams — and hanging out.

“We were together every minute in our childhoods,” said Kramer. “Our families were very close. He was a sports fanatic who loved baseball, football, basketball. We spent a lot of time in the summers in his tree house, and when he went to college in Vermont we would go skiing.”

Shuhandler attended Lakewood Prep — now Monmouth Academy — in Howell and received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vt. After college he tried other jobs before getting a summer position with the Manasquan Police Department, which eventually became full-time in 1990.

He joined the Gilbert force in August 1994, became a sergeant in 2003, and was promoted to lieutenant three years later.

People lined up for hours to pay last respects to Shuhandler during a closed-casket visitation held at Sinai Mortuary in Phoenix on Feb. 2.

“You would not believe the amount of people who have shown up in support,” said Matt Chandross, a North Phoenix resident who was a friend of Shuhandler’s since high school. “It was a line around the building for four straight hours.”

With grief clouding his voice, Chandross said, “He was a great person and he did the right thing all the time, and I’ll miss him forever. He was a great friend and a good person and a great dad. Just a wonderful man.”

Shuhandler was “very passionate” about law enforcement, said Richard Abramson, who knew him since the ninth grade and moved to Arizona from New Jersey with him. “He wanted to keep people safe.”

Kramer said he regrets the two were not close in recent years, but said since the shooting he has thought often about his old friend. “He was as much a best friend to me as a best friend could be,” he said. “He was like a brother to me, basically like my other half.”

“I feel it’s just such a terrible loss for Arizona, for New Jersey, all the friends in Marlboro,” said Kramer.

Shuhandler is also survived by his sister, Joyce Mendelsohn of Portland, Ore.; and two daughters, Meredith, 12, and Nicole, 10, of Scottsdale.

Shuhandler’s funeral was followed by a graveside service at Mount Sinai Cemetery on Feb. 3. Rabbi Robert Kravitz, a police chaplain, officiated.

NJJN staff writer Debra Rubin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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