Why was cop — beloved by Linden kids — on train tracks before he died?
LINDEN — Hundreds of people gathered at Dobson Park Tuesday to remember the officer they affectionately referred to as DK who was killed while walking on train tracks Monday morning.
Officer Daniel Kuczynski, 45, a 20-year veteran on the force, was an important part of the community, Linden Police Athletic League President Dennis Valvano said Wednesday, and Kuczynski's loss will be felt beyond his role as the director of the PAL.
"Danny and I worked together hand in hand almost daily with the PAL," he said.
According to Amtrak police on Wednesday, authorities did not know why Kuczynski, who was off duty at the time, was walking near the train tracks.
Mayor Derek Armstead, however, has suggested that it may not have been an accident.
"I don't know what could have been happening, what was going on in his life," Armstead was quoted as saying by NJ.com. "When people are having a hard time in their life, you just wish they would reach out to somebody."
Valvano said in just under a decade working with PAL, Kuczynski had helped to triple participation in the program. With more than 600 kids, Valvano said the program now includes two basketball seasons, two baseball seasons, volleyball, flag football and more.
"Danny was looking to do the next new thing to provide a place for kids, a safe place, a place where they could learn and grow in the spirit of competition and teamwork and his message was always about family and education," Valvano said.
Watching Kuczynski work for nine years, Valvano said you could see his commitment to the children and that they could tell he took a genuine interest in their success.
"He did everything from his heart. It was always about the kids, it was never about Danny," Valvano said.
With hundreds of people coming together on a warm spring night for the vigil, Valvano said it was "really an amazing event."
"It just showed the effect that he had on so many people," he said. "It was really emotional but it was a beautiful ceremony."
Even with Kuczynski gone Valvano said the PAL will work to carry on his memory.
"The thing to me and the PAL that's most important is the kids," he said. Valvano said the event served as "an opportunity to hear people talk about him and talk about our promise to carry forward everything Danny had done at PAL and keep everything in tact and keep his spirit alive and honor him."
According to MyCentralJersey.com, one of the people to speak at the vigil was Kuczynski's brother Adam, a former city councilman.
"He was always there for me when I called him, he would give me the shirt off his back if I needed it, he would pain himself to help me," he was quoted in the story as saying. "Then I realized he does that for all of you too. It was that he lowered my standard, he raised you all to the level of family, and that's what Danny is all about."
NJ.com quoted Chief Jonathan Parham as saying: "We want our children to grow up like DK ... This [gathering] is a shining example of the effect DK has had on the city of Linden."
After joining the Linden force in 1997, Kuczynski spent 11 years in the patrol division earning multiple commendations. That included being named along with other members of the department as Officer of the Year in 2000 after the arrest of "multiple murder suspects." He received the honor again the following year for arresting multiple armed robbery suspects as well. In 2008 he was assigned to the juvenile bureau where he also worked as the director of the PAL program.
Not only did Kuczynski work in Linden, but the department said he also grew up in the city, including spending summers as a park director for the Linden Recreation Summer Program. A member of the Linden High School class of 1990, he went on to earn an associate's degree from Middlesex County College, a bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, where he played on the baseball team, and a master's degree last year from Seton Hall University.
A viewing for Kuczynski is set for Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m at Werson Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held at St. John the Apostle Church on Monday at 10 a.m. with burial services immediately after at St. Gertrude Cemetery in Colonia.
Kuczynski is survived by his father John, his mother, Eleanor, and his brothers John and Adam.
More From WOBM