Officers salute police boss, mayor at wake for slain officer
NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio drew salutes from some officers at the wake for a second slain New York Police Department officer after the city’s police commissioner urged his ranks to refrain from making political statements.
The uniformed police officers showed respect rather than disdain for de Blasio when he arrived with Police Commissioner William Bratton, with some saluting as the men entered at the start of the daylong event for Officer Wenjian Liu. His funeral arrangements had been delayed so relatives from China could travel to New York.
Liu and and his partner, Officer Rafael Ramos were fatally shot in their patrol car on a Brooklyn street two weeks ago by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who killed himself as police closed in. Brinsley had made references online to the killings of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers, vowing to put “wings on pigs.”
Investigators say Brinsley was an emotionally disturbed loner who started off his rampage by shooting and wounding an ex-girlfriend in Baltimore.
The police killings ramped up emotions in the already-tense national debate over police conduct. Since Ramos and Liu were killed, police in New York have investigated at least 70 threats made against officers, and more than a dozen people have been arrested.
For de Blasio, the gesture of respect during the wake contrasted with the back-turning insults hundreds of officers displayed last week toward video screens showing the mayor speaking at Ramos’ funeral. Bratton had urged rank-and-file officers not to make political statements at Liu’s wake and funeral.
“A hero’s funeral is about grieving, not grievance,” Bratton said in a memo read to all commands at roll calls Friday and Saturday. “I issue no mandates, and I make no threats of discipline, but I remind you that when you don the uniform of this department, you are bound by the tradition, honor and decency that go with it.”
Police union officials, who are negotiating a contract with the city, had accused de Blasio of helping foster an anti-police atmosphere by supporting demonstrations following the chokehold death of an unarmed black man in the New York City borough of Staten Island who resisted arrest.
The back-turning at Ramos’ funeral mimicked what some police union officials did outside a hospital when the officers were killed two weeks ago.
Hundreds of uniformed police officers from around the U.S. streamed into the wake for Liu.
“This is a really tragic story,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who attended the wake two days after the death of his father — former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.
He noted that Liu and his wife were newlyweds who had just moved into a home months into their marriage.
“She’s now a widow,” he said. “This is really pointless. It had nothing to do with them. They did nothing wrong. It wasn’t about them. It was pure and random hatred.”
Cuomo also expressed his own sorrow.
“Today is not the day for my dad, but I can say I miss him already. There’s a hole in my heart,” he said.
Liu’s funeral was scheduled for Sunday with a Chinese ceremony led by Buddhist monks to be followed by a traditional police ceremony with eulogies led by a chaplain. Burial will follow at Cypress Hills Cemetery.
The 32-year-old officer had been on the police force for seven years and had gotten married two months before he was killed. His widow, Pei Xia Chen, spoke tearfully days after the shooting.
Uniformed officers from across the U.S. were among the first in line Saturday at Liu’s wake. About 20 officers from the Los Angeles Police Department traveled to Brooklyn to pay their respects to the fallen policeman.
“When it happens here, it happens to us,” LAPD Officer Hannu Tarjamo said. “It doesn’t matter if it happens here, or in L.A., or in Louisiana. It’s an act of savagery that should be condemned by society.”
Luda Kaplan, 67, of Brooklyn, carried a handmade sign with a heart and “NYPD” on it as she stood across the street from the funeral home. She said her son-in-law was an NYPD officer for 20 years.
“When he left every morning at 4:30 a.m., we didn’t know if he would come home,” she said.