Oct 28, 2015 News
(New York Times) On a chilly Tuesday morning in Jamaica, Queens, hundreds of police officers gathered near a towering church. Florists delivered ornate bouquets. Every stoplight, streetlamp and tree nearby had
been adorned with a blue ribbon.
A New York City police officer had been killed gunned down last week in East Harlem. Officer Randolph Holder was the fourth officer fatally shot in the line of duty in 10 months. And on Tuesday, just after 8 a.m., eight fellow officers carried his coffin into the Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral of New York.
Outside, many had assembled to pay their respects, with a viewing scheduled to stretch into the afternoon, before his funeral today at the church and his burial on Saturday in Guyana, his homeland, where his father and grandfather had served as police officers.
Officer Holder was the first in his family to serve in the New York Police Department, its green, blue and white flag draping his coffin.
Pat Cabell sobbed as she watched the procession from the sidewalk. She said she had lost her own son eight years ago in a shooting in Florida.
“I felt I had to be here; it’s somebody’s son,” she said. “This is another example of a black man being felled by violence.”
The moon still hung in the sky as officers and others began arriving at the church. Some had hats in hand and white gloves strapped beneath shoulder epaulets as they walked inside.
It has become a sadly familiar ritual: Four times since Dec. 20, when two police officers were shot at point-blank range in an ambush in Brooklyn, New York City police officers have stretched black mourning bands across their shields, put American flags at half-staff and adorned their precinct station houses with black and purple bunting.
“They’re very saddened,” said the Rev. Wilfredo Mojica, a pastor at an East Harlem church and a chaplain for Police Service Area 5, where Officer Holder worked. “No matter how many times they do this it’s the same pain all over again.”
The earlier killings occurred during a time of heightened tension in the city, coming not long after the death of Eric Garner while he was in police custody. Mayor Bill de Blasio became the target for much of the anger of rank-and-file police officers, with some of them turning their backs on him as he eulogized the officers at their funerals.
Since then, some of the friction has eased. The mayor is expected to visit the viewing for Officer Holder on Tuesday afternoon.
Still, not all the tension has dissipated. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who had accepted an invitation from the family and their pastor to eulogize Officer Holder, has said he will no longer speak. In a letter addressed to Officer Holder’s father, also named Randolph Holder, Mr. Sharpton cited recent public criticism of his relationship with the police as his reason for declining.
Mr. Sharpton, a long vocal critic of the police, stressed that his efforts were aimed at brutality by officers and not meant as an attack on law enforcement.
“I thought my coming might give a sense of unity in the city,” he wrote in the letter, which was disseminated Tuesday by the National Action Network, the civil rights organization Mr. Sharpton leads.
He said that he hoped to demonstrate that “we can disagree on cases and on policies, but that we are united that the senseless and ruthless killing of officers like your son must be denounced and we must as a city come together and mourn that loss.”
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