UNION CITY NJ Dec 29 2016 -- The Union City Police Department and the broader community is mourning the death of Officer Ricardo Fernandez, a 24-year veteran of the department who died suddenly on Monday night, his chief said.
Union City Police Chief Richard Molinari said Fernandez, 48, died of "medical complications" at his home. Molinari declined to elaborate on the circumstances.
After growing up in Hoboken and then moving to Union City, Fernandez spent much of his police career in the 160-member department's Motorcycle Unit, most of that riding at night, Molinari said.
Photographs posted on social media showed Fernandez, a physically imposing individual, in uniform, standing proudly by his blue-and-white UCPD Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
About a year ago, Molinari said, he granted Fernandez' request to be reassigned to the day shift so he could spend more time with his wife, Lillian, and his two children, Marc Anthony and Isabella.
"That was an easy decision for me," Molinari said, citing Fernandez's commitment to police work and to his role on the 7-member motorcycle squad. "Whether it was in the rain, the cold, at night, Ricky really had a passion for riding his motorcycle. He was one of the heart and souls of the motorcycle unit."
Molinari said arrangements had not yet been made.
Fernandez' death was first revealed by the department on its Facebook page, where members of the broader Union City community expressed their condolences.
"Last night the Union City Police Department lost one of our officers," read the department's entry, posted on Tuesday. "Police Officer Ricardo Fernandez was a Police Officer for 24 years. He was a kind, gentle and classy man. He treated everyone the same way, with kindness, empathy and respect. He was dedicated to his family, his friends, his brother and sister officers and to the people that he served. He came to work yesterday and no one knew that it would be his final day with us."
"Union City Police Officer Ricardo Fernandez #267 may you rest in eternal peace," the department added. "We've got the watch from here."