NEW YORK (AP) – Friends, relatives and colleagues of a policeman gunned down along with his partner lined up outside a church Friday and dozens of officers saluted as his flag-draped casket was carried inside for a daylong wake.
Uniformed city police officers hoisted the casket carrying the body of Officer Rafael Ramos on their shoulders as they made a solemn entrance into Christ Tabernacle Church in the Glendale section of Queens.
“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.”
In the evening, hundreds of additional mourners were expected to spill into the streets outside the church to hear speakers eulogize Ramos. Several giant video screens were being set up for the event.
Ramos’ funeral is scheduled for Saturday. Vice President Joe Biden is expected to attend.
Ramos was killed in a brazen daytime ambush Dec. 20 along with Officer Wenjian Liu as they sat in their patrol car on a Brooklyn street. The shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, later killed himself.
Ramos was a longstanding and deeply committed member of the church, where he served as an usher, according to family and friends.
“Whether he was helping a mom with a carriage or bringing someone to their seats, he did it with so much love and so much vigor and so much joy,” Castillo said.
Fellow churchgoer Hilda Kiefer waited in line to enter the church for the officer’s wake.
“We feel sorry for the family, and nobody deserves to die like this,” Kiefer said.
His compassion was in contrast to the emotionally disturbed loner who killed the officers.
Investigators say Brinsley started his rampage by shooting and wounding an ex-girlfriend in Baltimore. He also posted online threats to police and made references to high-profile cases of unarmed black men killed by white police officers.
The killings ramped up emotions in the already tense national debate over police conduct. Since Ramos and Liu were killed, police in New York say they have arrested seven people accused of threatening officers.
Liu’s funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.
Ramos celebrated his 40th birthday this month. He joined the NYPD in 2012 after working as a school security officer.
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.
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.
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