WORCESTER —The drownings of a 14-year-old in a pond Friday and a police officer who gave his life trying to save the boy left many broken hearts in this city.
Worcester, which has lost nearly a dozen first responders in the line of duty over the past two decades, this weekend faced a too-familiar pain as people mourned the deaths of Officer Enmanuel Familia, 38, and the teenager he sought to rescue from the pond at Green Hill Park, a 14-year-old boy named Troy Love, who was visiting from his home in Verona, Va.
Flags in the city and across the state were flying at half-staff Saturday as officers saluted the hearse that brought the officer’s body to a local funeral home. Earlier in the day, at the pond’s shoreline, some members of Familia’s family stood near a makeshift memorial decorated with bouquets.
“We’re going to mourn Manny’s passing, we’re going to remember his life, and we are going to come together as a community, as we always have,” Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty said in a phone interview Saturday. “The people of Worcester always stand by their first responders, and we’ll stand together again.”
Police and firefighters responded to the scene after receiving 911 calls about a possible drowning. Five officers, including Familia, went into the water.
Two young people were safely pulled out of the water by officers — but Familia did not re-emerge, according to Worcester officials Friday. Divers recovered the bodies of Familia and Love, who were later declared dead at local hospitals. It was not known who the young people rescued were.
Sujeiby Maracallo, 38, of Worcester, whose husband is the fallen officer’s cousin, said Familia was a devoted family man dedicated to his profession.
“I just know that he really cared about his family. He was always there and always had a smile on his face,” Maracallo said.
Familia — who went by “Manny” — leaves a wife, Jennifer, and was the father of a son, Jovan, and a daughter, Jayla, according to police. He had served for five years as a Worcester officer, police said.
Love was visiting family in Worcester, according to his mother, Roberta Love. Her son was in eighth grade, she said, and loved baseball and playing the video game Fortnite.
“He had a huge heart” and he never liked to see anyone sad, Love said of her son in a text message. “He was happy.”
Love expressed sorrow over the officer’s death and said she has contacted Familia’s family.
Familia was a hero, she said.
“I want to thank them for [Familia] trying to save my son,” she said. “What he died trying to do … he was willing to lose his life for him.”
On Saturday morning, Familia’s body was taken in a police-escorted procession from UMass Memorial Health Care Center to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Westfield, according to Worcester police. It was returned that afternoon to Worcester and brought to Mercadante Funeral Home & Chapel, a short drive from the pond.
The tragedies in Worcester on Friday came the same day two Braintree police officers and a police dog were shot while responding to a domestic disturbance call.
Governor Charlie Baker, who spoke to reporters Saturday during a visit to a Dorchester vaccination clinic, said he had spoken with the police chiefs in Worcester and Braintree on Friday night to offer his support. He also planned to contact the families of Love and Familia, he said.
Baker said people should recognize that police have very dangerous — and potentially deadly — jobs.
“Somebody who jumps into the water attempting to save somebody else, a young boy, that’s about as high a calling as you can possibly imagine,” Baker said of Familia. “And a tragic consequence.”
Chief Steven M. Sargent and other city officials expressed their condolences to the families of Familia and Love during a press conference Friday.
“We will remember and honor his selfless devotion to Worcester and his ultimate sacrifice to save someone he didn’t know,” Sargent said.
Officers who were in the water Friday were taken to a local hospital for evaluation. Seven divers were involved in the search, and one of them was transported to a local hospital after suffering minor injuries.
Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. on Friday said Familia’s children are Worcester public school students. Grief counselors were available to students Saturday, according to a city spokeswoman.
Augustus told reporters: “There are no words to express how difficult this loss is. God knows, this city has had more than its share of loss.”
The city has grappled with a string of losses to its first responder community since 1999, when six city firefighters — Paul A. Brotherton, 41; Timothy P. Jackson, 51; Jeremiah M. Lucey, 38; James F. “Jay” Lyons III, 34; Joseph T. McGuirk, 38; and Thomas E. Spencer, 42 — died battling the Cold Storage Warehouse fire.
More than a decade later, the city lost another firefighter when Jon D. Davies Sr., 43, died fighting a 2011 fire on Arlington Street.
In 2018, firefighter Christopher Roy, 36, died fighting a Lowell Street fire. The following year, a Stockholm Street blaze killed 39-year-old Fire Lieutenant Jason Menard.
Worcester’s firefighters union has also reportedly called the 2019 death of Lieutenant John Kennedy, 46, a line-of-duty death, according to MassLive.com.
Worcester Fire Chief Michael J. Lavoie Saturday, in an e-mail to the Globe, said: “The focus right now needs to be on honoring Manny and supporting our brothers and sisters in blue and their families as they have supported us in our times of tragedy.”
At the park Saturday afternoon, many families milled about or were picnicking by the banks of the pond.
A corroded sign behind a fence to the side of the pond read “Warning No Swimming May Cause Illness.”
At the pond, Maracallo said her husband and Familia were close — they shared a love of football, held Patriots season tickets for almost a decade, and traveled around the country to catch games.
Familia served as a mentor for her children, she said, including her 14-year-old daughter, Aleina Maracallo.
Aleina Maracallo cried as she remembered her uncle’s support. He would sit and talk to her for an hour at a time, and tell her never to give up.
She looked out at the pond. “His last words and feelings were here,” she said.
Brittany Bowker and John Blanding of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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