One of two New York police officers shot dead was laid to rest Friday, in a case that has crystallized a rise in gun violence that new mayor Eric Adams has vowed to tackle.
Officer Jason Rivera, 22, was killed while responding to a domestic disturbance in Harlem with his 27-year-old partner Wilbert Mora, who also died this week of his gun wounds.
Under a light snow and somber sky, thousands of officers along with Rivera’s family, the police commissioner and Mayor Adams, himself a former cop, gathered at the famed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan for the funeral service that was held in both English and Spanish.
The state’s Governor Kathy Hochul and Senator Chuck Schumer were also in attendance.
“He lived his dream, although too short a time,” the priest said of Rivera. “He made a difference.”
An organist played “God Bless America” to close the ceremony, and the blaring of bagpipes filled the streets outside the cathedral, as is traditional in New York police funerals.
“Through pain and sorrow, this is exactly how he would’ve wanted to be remembered. Like a true hero,” said the officer’s widow, Dominique. The childhood sweethearts were newly married.
One police officer in attendance told AFP in Spanish that “I’m in a lot of pain” following the shooting of the man she called a friend, with whom she said she graduated.
Another officer, who also would not give his name, said, “We are sad. Sad for him, for his family. Unfortunately, he won’t be the last.”
The city’s police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, gave Rivera a posthumous promotion to the highest rank for a detective, first-grade, a traditional promotion for officers killed while working.
“The NYPD will never give up this city,” said Sewell to the congregation. “We will always prevail.”
– ‘We are New Yorkers’ –
The shooting on January 21 was the latest flashpoint in Democratic mayor Adam’s nascent rule, and it prompted him to release a new plan to rein in the crime he has long decried.
Calling Rivera a hero, Adams delivered a eulogy to the slain officer, saying that “his journey by our side has ended. He takes another path.”
He vowed to combat the “senseless violence” that resulted in the deaths.
Honoring the officer’s family, Adams told the cathedral, “We are New Yorkers. I believe in this city with all my heart.”
“We care about each other. That’s what makes this city possible, along with the courage of officers like Jason Rivera.”
The shooting deaths are seen as part of a broader, national trend of gun violence fueled by the accessibility of firearms, against the backdrop of the social and economic toll of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Adams’ plan includes restoring a controversial anti-gun unit that was cut in 2020 amid the mass social justice protests that followed the police killing in Minnesota of George Floyd.
The plainclothes police units had become notorious for targeting Black and Latino New Yorkers.
This time, the teams would be equipped with body cameras and wear a piece of police insignia, but would travel in unmarked vehicles.
Adams is also calling for changes to bail laws and a tweak to another law that would allow prosecutors to charge children in adult court if they’re arrested with guns, although it is unclear if either of those proposals have necessary state support.
The mayor’s blueprint has rankled lawmakers on the left, many of whom advocate for more investment in community initiatives, health care and education rather than approaching crime issues through more policing.
The largest American city has suffered a spate of violence in January, not only shootings but also the deadly shoving of an Asian-American woman onto the subway tracks as a train entered Times Square.
Gun incidents in New York — far from the violence the city was suffering decades ago — ticked up slightly in 2021, up 4.3 percent from the 2020 numbers.
In a sign that Adams’ tough-on-crime line is garnering political backing, President Joe Biden is expected in New York on February 3 to discuss his strategy against gun violence nationwide, according to the White House.