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Tens of thousands of police attend funeral of slain N.Y. officer

Tens of thousands of police officers from across the country joined with the New York Police Department on Saturday for the funeral of fallen Officer Rafael Ramos.Mike Segar/Reuters

NEW YORK — In an overwhelming display of solidarity and sorrow, tens of thousands of police officers from across the country joined with the New York Police Department on Saturday to pay their respects to a fallen officer.

They came for the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos, who was gunned down Dec. 20 along with his partner, Officer Wenjian Liu, as the two men sat in their patrol car on a Brooklyn street, targeted because of the badges they wore.

Every police funeral is rich with symbolism and solemnity, and the protocols played out Saturday with well-practiced precision.

Maritza Ramos was handed the carefully folded Police Department flag that had been draped on her husband’s coffin, her sons by her side. Officers lining the roadways outside the church snapped to attention to offer a final salute as taps was played. A formation of 12 helicopters flew overhead.


But this farewell carried a deeper resonance, emotionally and politically, coming at a time of heightened tension between the police and communities across the nation.

On the streets around the church, scores of New York City police officers used the occasion to once again make a statement about what they feel is a lack of support from City Hall — turning their backs when Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered his remarks.

More broadly, the funeral was a moment for the police to reaffirm their bond of blue.

“When an assassin’s bullet targeted two officers, it targeted this city, and it touched the soul of an entire nation,” said Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke at the funeral along with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton.

Biden was voicing a sentiment that has coursed through the city over the past several days and that was palpable outside the Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens, where Ramos was celebrated and mourned Friday and Saturday.


In the weeks and days before the shooting, protesters had taken to the streets in cities across the country to denounce the criminal justice system as unfair to blacks.

But often the police themselves were the target of their rage, and many officers have expressed a sense of feeling besieged.

Rudy Zotter, 51, now retired, worked for years in the Special Victims Unit and said he had been to 88 funerals dating to 1985. “This funeral is different from all funerals I’ve been to because right now, there’s a public outcry in law enforcement,” he said.

“You have to come out to support people in a very bad time,” Zotter said. “With the beatings law enforcement has taken all over the country, this is a way of everyone showing support.’’

Speaking inside the church, Cuomo said he watched the recent protests and saw “people hurling insults” directly in the faces of the police officers — but, he said, the police did their jobs, no matter how vicious or personal the invective.

“Every New Yorker stands with you today,” Cuomo said.

In recent days, a number of threats against police officers have been reported, and Cuomo said, “No group is above the law; no intimidation, no politics will ever change that.”

De Blasio, who spoke after Cuomo, praised Ramos and all those who choose to serve the city in uniform.

“Our hearts are aching today,” he said. “New York City has lost a hero.”


But even as he spoke, a crowd of officers turned their backs to the image of de Blasio on a large screen. The New York City officers acted first and then officers from other departments followed.

Asked whether they faced away because the mayor was speaking, one of them slowly nodded his head yes.

The funeral was a stark coda to a wrenching week for the Police Department.

The man who killed the officers, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, had said on social media that he intended to kill police officers, drawing apparent inspiration from the ongoing protests of the police. He killed himself minutes later in a subway station.

After the killings, the political fallout was immediate and intense. The already strained relationship between de Blasio and the Police Department grew even worse, with the head of a police union accusing him of having blood on his hands. When de Blasio arrived at the funeral, there was a scattering of boos, and one officer held up a sign calling for him to resign.

In recent days, de Blasio has tried to heal the rift, but it remains to be seen whether he can win the trust of many in the department.

As Christmas Day approached, de Blasio called on protesters to put down their signs until after the officers could be mourned — a call that went unheeded by some.

On Wednesday, the mayor led a minute of silence at 2:47 p.m. to mark the time the two officers were killed. That night, buildings across the city briefly dimmed their lights in tribute.


On Friday, the official ceremonies began with the wake for Ramos, a 40-year-old married father of two, who, along with Liu, was promoted posthumously to first-grade detective.

Services for Liu, 32, have been delayed until members of his family can make arrangements to travel from their home in China. He was known to celebrate his faith privately, and friends of the family said such a public funeral could be difficult.