Police were conducting a manhunt Friday after a veteran Norwalk police officer was shot and killed while investigating what authorities describe as a suspicious incident.

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Police Chief Harry Rilling identified the officer as Matthew Morelli, 38, an 11-year veteran of the department who was once an intelligence analyst for the Marines.

Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia and Police Chief Harry W. Rilling told reporters that the incident happened at 12:26 a.m. in a secluded parking lot in south Norwalk.

"The uniformed officer was on patrol and had stepped out on Lubrano Place to investigate suspicious activity to the rear of the parking lot," Lt. Paul Resnick, the police department spokesman said.

Officers responding to a request for backup found the officer dead, Resnick said. Weapons, including the officer's gun, were recovered from the scene.

"It's a shock and tragedy anytime you have an officer killed in the line of duty," Resnick said.

As to whether there was just one or several suspects or whether the officer was able to return fire before he was killed, Resnick said that "at this point I can't go there" because the investigation was ongoing.

Police blocked off several streets and were using canine units to search the area Friday morning. Several area departments are assisting and police helicopters from Westchester County, N.Y., and New York City were being used.

Resnick said the helicopters were on the scene "post haste, using infrared equipment, looking for the heat signature of possible suspects."

The death is the first fatality in the line of duty in the Norwalk police department in 26 years, and the fifth in the department's 94-year history, Resnick said.

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