Thousands of law-enforcement officers from across the nation gathered Saturday at a New York City funeral to mourn the death of an officer who was gunned down along with his partner Dec. 20, the Associated Press reports.
A sea of blue uniforms stretched for blocks outside the Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens as police helicopters flew a memorial salute and Officer Rafael Ramos’ body was carried by pallbearers in a casket draped in the New York City Police Department flag, the report says. More than 20,000 officers attended the funeral.
“When an assassin’s bullet targeted two officers, it targeted this city and it touched the soul of an entire nation,” Vice President Joseph Biden said in his eulogy.
The air was thick with emotion in a city torn by racial tension amid ongoing protests against police violence in the black community. Tensions boiled over recently after a grand jury declined to indict a white officer in the choke hold death in July of Eric Garner, 43, during an arrest for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Garner was black.
Before the killings of Ramos and his partner, Wenjian Liu, Mayor Bill de Blasio was criticized for what police perceived as his support for protesters in a call for justice in the black community.
During the eulogy, the Associated Press reports, “a few hundred officers outside the church turned away from giant screens showing de Blasio.” The news agency interviewed Sgt. Myron Joseph of the New Rochelle Police Department, who said that he and fellow officers turned their backs spontaneously to “support our brothers in the NYPD.”
But de Blasio tried to stay above the fray, delivering a heartfelt eulogy and releasing a statement saying it was important to maintain a focus on the deaths of two officers in the line of duty.
“The Ramos and Liu families, our Police Department and our city are dealing with an unconscionable tragedy,” the mayor’s spokesman said in a statement, according to AP. “Our sole focus is unifying this city and honoring the lives of our two police officers.”
Read more at the Associated Press.