Thousands mourn slain officer who ‘made a difference’

As thousands of police officers from New York to California gathered outside, the funeral of Officer Jason Rivera, who was fatally shot last week in Harlem, was held Friday morning at St. Patrick with a solemn homily and moving reflections that recalled Officer Rivera’s dreams of bringing about meaningful change in his community and in the force.

Commissioner Keechant Sewell described Constable Rivera’s infectious spirit and his profound influence on those around him.

“It’s always been a City of Lights, and policeman Jason Rivera was one of the brightest,” she said. “Jason overcame every challenge that came his way.”

His thoughts came in the middle of a funeral service at which Officer Rivera and his partner, 27-year-old Wilbert Mora, were on the minds of the public. Officer Mora also died of his injuries, making the shooting the first in more than seven years in which two city officers were killed together on the job.

“The horror that took their lives is an affront to every decent, caring human being in this city and beyond,” Ms Sewell said. “Their killings, the extinguishing of Jason’s thousand watt smile that lifted the spirits of those lucky enough to know him shocks sensibilities and drives others to despair.”

The speech to the service was Ms Sewell’s most important public speech since she took over the department less than a month ago, being chosen for the job by Mayor Eric Adams over several other candidates with fuller resumes. , as he praised her level of emotional intelligence. .

In her eulogy, Ms Sewell recalled what she said was Officer Rivera’s impressive level of maturity at such a young age – something she said was ‘noted down repeatedly by colleagues’ – while gently teasing him for his sporting allegiances.

“When Jason was a kid, he played many sports and he loved the New York Mets dearly — because he didn’t know better,” she said, to laughter from the audience.

As a sea of ​​blue uniforms gathered in flurries of snow outside the historic Fifth Avenue Church, listening to speeches from speakers, Governor Kathy Hochul and other state and city officials were inside. Constable Rivera’s wife, Dominique Luzuriaga, and brother, Jeffrey Rivera, spoke movingly during the service.

Credit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

Officer Rivera was a 22-year-old recruit who was assigned to Harlem’s 32nd Precinct last year. In many ways, he was representative of the new generation of Latino officers rising in a police department that was once predominantly white.

His family immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic, and he had joined the force fueled by a yearning to strengthen the relationship between the police and the people they serve, after seeing with his own eyes growing up how tensions could easily arise.

On Friday, Commissioner Sewell gave Officer Rivera a posthumous promotion to Detective First Rank, the highest rank for a detective, part of a long tradition in the department for officers killed in the drill. of their functions.

Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Other precinct officers have shared their grief over Officer Rivera’s untimely death at vigils and memorials over the past week.

They were among many townspeople who were shaken in the days after the shooting, as the gunshots ushered in the collective sense of pain felt in New York when an officer is lost on the job. During the first 20 days of the year, three other officers were shot, but all survived without debilitating injuries.

Credit…Dieu-Nalio Chéry for The New York Times/30263561A

A private ceremony for Officer Rivera was scheduled for later Friday at a cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Details of Officer Mora’s funeral had not been released as of Thursday evening.

They were part of a team of three officers who responded Friday night last week to a 911 call to a Harlem apartment: a mother had asked police to speak with her adult son, Lashawn McNeil, 47, after that he threatened her verbally. She made no mention of weapons in the apartment.

When officers arrived, they met the mother at the door, who told them her son was in a back bedroom, police said. She asked him to leave the room, which was at the end of a long, narrow hallway. But he did not join them.

Credit…Stephanie Keith for The New York Times

Officers Rivera and Mora headed for the door, one of them calling Mr. McNeil. The third officer, a trainee, stayed behind to speak with his mother and a brother who was also there.

But as the two officers approached the bedroom, Mr McNeil opened fire with a pistol, seriously injuring them both. The third officer shot Mr. McNeil twice, in the head and in the arm. He passed away on Monday.

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