TOMS RIVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jury selection is set to start today in the murder trial of a man charged with gunning down a Lakewood police officer as he sat in his police cruiser last year.

Ocean County prosecutors say 20-year-old Jahmell Crockam shot patrolman Christopher Matlosz after the officer drove up alongside him on August Drive last January.

Crockam then allegedly opened fire, shooting the 27-year-old officer three times at close range.

As he was dying in the driver’s seat Matlosz was in communication with dispatch. Help arrived quickly but not quickly enough and he was pronounced dead at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

 Crockam has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer says he looks forward to his day in court.

Opening statements are not expected until late January or early February.

If convicted, Crockam could be sent to prison for life without parole.

Crockam also is awaiting trial in another, unrelated murder case.

Before joining the Lakewood Police Department, Matlosz worked as a police officer in Englishtown, a Monmouth County suburb, and as a Class 2 special police officer in Freehold Township, Manasquan and Long Branch on the Jersey shore.

He graduated from Howell Township High School and earned his degree in criminal justice from Brookdale College in 2004.

His death was the second shooting incident involving a Lakewood police officer in recent years.

In September 2009, another Lakewood police officer, Patrolman Jonathan Wilson, was critically wounded when he was shot in the face during a gun and drug raid that resulted in a gun battle. Three other officers were shot but received lesser injuries.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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