NYC mayor attends wake of officer killed in ambush
NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio, heavily criticized by police for his handling of protests critical of them, on Friday attended the wake of an officer shot to death with his partner in a brazen daytime ambush.
Hundreds of police officers, politicians and community members attended the daylong remembrance for Officer Rafael Ramos at the Christ Tabernacle Church.
Ramos, a 40-year-old married father of two sons, was studying to be a pastor. His body was carried into the church in a flag-draped casket and was displayed in full dress uniform.
Pastor Ralph Castillo said Ramos was a beloved member of the church.
“Whether he was helping a mom with a carriage or bringing someone to their seats, he did it with so much love and so much vigor and so much joy,” Castillo said.
Ramos’ funeral is scheduled for Saturday, and Vice President Joseph Biden is expected to make remarks. De Blasio has said he will attend. Funeral plans for Ramos’ partner, Officer Wenjian Liu, have not been announced.
Police union officials have said de Blasio contributed to a climate of mistrust toward police amid protests over the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white officers. At a hospital where Ramos and Liu were taken following their shooting as they sat in a patrol car on a Brooklyn street, police and union officials turned their backs on the mayor in a sign of disrespect. The police union president, Patrick Lynch, blamed the mayor then for their deaths and said he had blood on his hands.
After a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white New York police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man whose confrontation with police was videotaped, Lynch was incensed when the mayor mentioned how he often fears for the safety of his biracial son in his interactions with police.
“Police officers,” Lynch said, “feel like they are being thrown under the bus.”
Just days before the shooting, Lynch suggested his police union members sign a petition demanding the mayor not attend their funerals should they die on the job. Cardinal Timothy Dolan and others later attempted to temper the rhetoric.
The mayor has said Lynch’s remarks were wrong and divisive, and he has called for calm.
The officers’ killings have ramped up emotions in the already tense national debate over police conduct. Since Ramos and Liu were killed, police in New York say they have arrested seven people accused of threatening officers.
Gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley, before he attacked Ramos and Liu, had referenced in online posts the high-profile killings by white police officers of unarmed black men, specifically an 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, and Garner. Soon after the officers’ shooting Brinsley, who was black, killed himself.