In Brooklyn, the Lives of 2 Officers Are Recalled as Their Deaths Are Mourned – New York Times

Bernice Cruz, center, and her nephew Steven Delgado took part in a candlelight vigil on Sunday outside of the childhood home of Officer Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn. He and Officer Wenjian Liu were fatally shot on Saturday.
By MICHAEL WILSON and MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ
December 21, 2014

The two officers lived at opposite ends of Brooklyn, one in Gravesend and one in Cypress Hills. They were stationed in another neighborhood, in Brooklyn Heights, and died in yet another.

The pain felt by the murders of Officers Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, could be felt throughout New York and the nation, but nowhere was the loss, and the legacies they left, felt more acutely than in Brooklyn.

Outside both officers’ homes, their uniformed colleagues stood guard, mixing with the many mourners who came to pay their respects. But just three months ago, the scene outside Officer Liu’s home on West Sixth Street could not have been more different.

A wedding party spilled out of the officer’s small house in Gravesend, laughing and gathering on the lawn the size of a cocktail napkin for photos. A limousine waited, headed to a reception at Super Lucky Seafood Restaurant on Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn, where all 30 tables were filled by some 300 guests.

Officers Rafael Ramos, 40, left, and Wenjian Liu, 32, were killed on Saturday.

“He had so many friends,” the manager said. “The place was packed.”

Officer Liu, a seven-year veteran of the force, wore a gray suit; his bride wore a white dress. On Sunday, they would have been married three months.

Instead, a worker at the florist down the block emerged from his shop on Sunday with a single white rose. He stuck it to Officer Liu’s front gate and walked away.

In quiet gestures like that, the street where Officer Liu lived served to mark his death, a day after a gunman ambushed him and his partner as they sat in a parked patrol car in Bedford-Stuyvesant. On Sunday, his widow stayed indoors as officers came and went from the home.

Officer Liu attended the College of Staten Island and Kingsborough Community College, and was an auxiliary officer before becoming a police officer in 2007.

Bin Fin Liang, 56, said Officer Liu would drop by his restaurant supply shop on the way home from the Police Academy. Mr. Liang asked him why he wanted to be an officer.

“I know that being a cop is dangerous but I must do it,” Officer Liu replied, his friend said. “If I don’t do it and you don’t do it, then who is going to do it?”

A family friend, Dr. Jonathan Chang, 55, emerged from the house and said the widow was in bed, inconsolable. Officer Liu’s parents had not eaten yet, and it was already late in the afternoon. The officer’s father irons in a garment factory. “Completely distraught,” Dr. Chang said in Mandarin. They repeated, over and over, “My son is gone, my son is gone.”

Emotions were equally raw near Officer Ramos’s home on Ridgewood Avenue. A few years ago, as he was preparing to join the Police Academy, he took a petition door to door asking neighbors to vouch for his character.

On Sunday, those same neighbors were mourning the loss of Officer Ramos, who joined the Police Department three years ago. While residents of his working-class neighborhood described the pride he took in being an officer, they remembered him more as the man who shoveled sidewalks after snowstorms, or who took his two boys to nearby Highland Park to play basketball, always with a smile on his face.

“He was a wonderful man,” said Alexander Justi, 72, who wiped away tears. “He’s good people.”

Some spoke of his love for the Mets. He bought ham-and-cheese sandwiches at the corner deli, made trips to the laundromat and talked to his boys in Spanish about basketball.

“He was the coolest guy. Every day he’d pass by and say hi,” Tazakkaa Ally, 40, said.

Before joining the Police Department, Officer Ramos worked for 14 years at Airborne Express/DHL, first as a walker delivering packages on foot on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, then as a driver, said Benito Montalvo, a doorman who worked with him during those years. Officer Ramos went to the Faith Evangelical College and Seminary in Washington State and hoped to one day be a chaplain, relatives and colleagues said.

“He was always looking forward to going home to see his son,” Mr. Montalvo said. “He didn’t want to do overtime.”

A Police Department spokesman said Officer Ramos worked as a school safety officer from 2009 to 2012 at the Rocco Laurie School on Staten Island, which is named for an officer who was killed along with his partner in a similar shooting in 1972.

Officer Ramos was older than most new recruits — he turned 40 a few weeks ago — and while at the academy often seemed fatigued, his neighbors said.

“He’d say, ‘I’m so tired, I’m going to school,’ ” Lydia Alvarez, 58, said.

On Sunday, dozens of officers with stern faces and red eyes visited the Ramos home. On his porch, they hugged, and then walked through a front door decorated with snowman stencils and a Christmas wreath.

While the police unions have voiced anger with Mayor Bill de Blasio over his stance on recent protests against police tactics, Officer Ramos’s family tried to strike a conciliatory tone. Ronnie Gonzales, a cousin of Officer Ramos, said that though Mr. de Blasio could do more to support the police, he would be welcome at the funeral and at the family’s home.

“If he wants to come, we’re not going to throw him out,” he said.

Another cousin, Richard Gonzales, said the family forgave the gunman: “We don’t blame him; we forgive him. If Rafael was here, he’d do the same thing.”

Mr. de Blasio and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton met with the families of Officers Ramos and Liu on Saturday evening. The mayor said Officer Ramos’s 13-year-old son, Jaden, “couldn’t comprehend what had happened to his father.”

Shortly after learning of his father’s death, Jaden Ramos took to Facebook to express his grief.

“Today is the worst day of my life,” he wrote at first.

“It’s horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer,” he wrote. “Everyone says they hate cops, but they are the people that they call for help.”

“I will always love you and I will never forget you.”

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