Mourners Gather For Wake Of Fallen NYPD Officer Rafael Ramos
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The wife and two sons of a New York City policeman gunned down along with his partner have been joined by hundreds of uniformed officers at his wake.
The family of Officer Rafael Ramos and officers streamed into the Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens on Friday, less than a week after the Dec. 20 killings.
The wake began soon after Ramos’ flag-draped casket was carried into the church on the shoulders of six uniformed officers. Fellow officers saluted as the casket passed.
As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo were among those who gathered at the Friday wake.
“Today we weep with the Ramos family, the New York City Police Department and our nation as we mourn the loss of our dear brother,” Pastor Ralph Castillo said before the start of the wake. “We loved Rafael Ramos. We loved the way he served people, we loved his faithfulness and the way he served people, and we’re going to miss him a great deal.”
As CBS2’s Sonia Rincon reported, the line went for blocks as New Yorkers gathered to pay their respects. Several giant video screens were being set up for the event.
Justin Ramos was in the middle of his sophomore year at Bowdoin College in Maine when his father was murdered. His image was broadcast for thousands waiting on line as he spoke about the man his father was.
“My dad would have been there for everyone and to see so many people here for him is a testament to who he is as a person. It has been so helpful during this time,” Justin said.
One of those people was Damarize Ruiz.
“He wasn’t just an officer that we lost. He was a good husband, a great dad, and also a Christian brother and we’re going to miss him dearly in this church,” Ruiz said.
Mayor de Blasio arrived at 9 p.m. as the wake was ending. He spend 15 minutes inside the church with Ramos’ family. His office announced that he plans to speak at the funeral on Saturday.
Ramos’ death is too close to home for William Arundeo, who dropped off flowers at the church and said a prayer.
“My brother was a cop for 20 years, my brother-in-law is a cop,” Arundeo told CBS2’s Ilana Gold.
“He works in the same precinct.”
The event was not all somber, there were a few laughs.
“I’ll keep this short and sweet. Just like my brother,” Cindy Ramos said, “I know you always worry about me, but you know how I roll because we were two peas in a pod. Never think, just do, and just hope for the best. Having you as a brother was one of the highest honors that could have been bestowed upon me.”
Parishioners said support for the family, his church family, and his police family couldn’t be stronger.
“We have come together, all of us. Race, color, doesn’t matter what it is,” Sacita Martinez said.
Ramos’ funeral is scheduled to be held at the same church Saturday, where more than 20,000 officers from around the country are expected to attend. Vice President Joe Biden has also said he will attend.
Andres Nazario will be there too, honoring his friend of 14 years.
He worked with Ramos in the usher’s ministry at the church and said Ramos was also training to become a police chaplain.
“He was the best guy,” he said. “Best thing in the world.”
Rick Lopez, an associate pastor at Christ Tabernacle, said their goal is to help the family and the city.
“We’re a strong community and we’re for the community,” he told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “We do a lot of outreach for the entire community and our hope is to bring New York City as one united community as a whole.”
Ramos celebrated his 40th birthday earlier this month. He had joined the NYPD in 2012 after working as a school security officer.
His commanding officer from the 84th precinct also worked with Ramos in the 79th.
“When we worked together in the 79, anything I needed, if I needed somebody to stay late, Ramos. I would always see him volunteering. Ramos, Ramos, Ramo, anytime I needed something,” Capt. Sergio Centa said.
Members of law enforcement were also stopping to pay respects at a memorial where Ramos and Liu were murdered.
“I walked Myrtle Avenue many, many nights, and it could have been any officer just being here. And it’s not right just to be targeted because you have the blue uniform on,” retired NYPD Detective Aaron Evans said.
Evans stopped by with his motorcycle group called the ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ to pray together.
The lifelong Brooklyn resident was married with two sons: a 13-year-old who is in middle school and one who attends Bowdoin College in Maine.
“His widow is very strong. His younger son, his 13-year-old son is very strong,” Peter King (R-Long
Ramos was killed Dec. 20 along with his partner, Officer Wenjian Liu, as they sat in their patrol car on a Brooklyn street. The shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, later killed himself.
Investigators say Brinsley was an emotionally disturbed loner who started off his rampage by shooting an ex-girlfriend in Baltimore.
He also posted online threats to police and made references to Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
The killings ramped up emotions in the already tense national debate over police conduct.
Since Ramos and Liu were killed, the NYPD said they’ve arrested six people accused of threatening officers. A seventh man was arrested Thursday on gun charges after a bystander overheard him making threats against police officers and talking about guns in his home.
The Silver Shield Foundation, a charity founded by the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, has set aside $40,000 for the education of Ramos’ sons. Bowdoin College said it will cover Ramos’ older son’s education costs as long as he remains a student there.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a charity created after 9/11, says it will pay off the home mortgages of the two slain officers.
Liu’s funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.
JetBlue said it has offered to fly the families of Ramos and Liu to the funeral. The airline is also offering free flights for up to two officers from each department along the routes it serves, space permitting.