Bridgeton Police said Officer Sean Peek responded to the Bridegton Fire Department's training facility early Sunday morning, where a woman hit an ambulance, shattered windows, and tried to break into a trailer.
According to a warrant, 29-year-old Sarah Davis caused up to $1,000 in damage before she either jumped or fell into the river next to the building.
Police said Officer Peek jumped in to save her, but had trouble getting to shore with all of his equipment.
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Officer Peek and Davis were both treated at a hospital.
Davis was charged with burglary and other crimes and Officer Peek went home.
Later that morning, police said he was found unresponsive. His cause of death is pending an autopsy.
"Even though she was doing things she wasn't supposed to, he was worried that she was going to be in trouble. He would have done anything, and he did, to help her," his widow Megan told Action News.
Officer Peek was 49 years old.
He leaves behind a wife and an 8-year old daughter.
"She's worried that, for me to go to sleep, that I'm not going to wake up. So she checks on me every morning," Megan said.
Chief Michael Gaimari said in a statement, "Sean was a fine officer and a friend to all and always acted in an exemplary fashion when representing the department and the City of Bridgeton."