Oct 29, 2015 News
(New York Times) For the fourth time in less than a year, they gathered, rank-and-file New York City officers in their dress blue uniforms, colleagues from distant police departments, ordinary New Yorkers thrust into mourning by the
killing of yet another officer.
Some outside Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Queens on Wednesday wore colorful necklaces of the Guyanese flag or bore vibrant umbrellas of red, yellow and green in remembrance of the slain officer, Randolph Holder, who immigrated from Guyana and brought with him a family tradition of police work.
Thousands more stood outside the cathedral in silence as a strong wind drove an incessant rain. In places along the wet streets, blue ribbon rosettes blew in the wind, torn from their place around lamp posts and tree trunks. Inside, relatives and friends were joined by city leaders, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton.
As the white hearse rolled past, flanked by eight slow-stepping officers, every police officer stood at attention. Drummers in kilts stood beside bagpipe players, beating a slow cadence. The service began just after 3:30 p.m.
Across the city, officers rose on Wednesday, black mourning bands around their badges, to take part in the majestic ritual — the bagpipes and coffin covered with a flag, the helicopter flyover and motorcycle-led procession — all the while contemplating the dangers that stalk the most routine patrol.
In December, a gunman fatally shot two uniformed officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, as they sat in their patrol car on a Brooklyn Street before taking his own life. Several months later, in May, Officer Brian Moore died after confronting a person he suspected of being armed on a residential street in Queens. Prosecutors charged Demetrius Blackwell in the killing.
On Tuesday, a day before Officer Holder’s funeral, a Manhattan grand jury indicted Tyrone Howard, a repeat drug offender from the East River Houses, in the killing. The authorities believe he had been fleeing the scene of a shooting near his home when he encountered Officer Holder around 8:30 p.m. and fired once from a .40-caliber Glock handgun, striking him in the head. Mr. Howard, 30, was wounded by Officer Holder’s partner and arrested soon after.
John Mangan, an outspoken Police Department booster, walked in the rain on Wednesday holding a long pole bearing the names of Officers Ramos, Liu, Moore and, now, Holder. Mr. Mangan had been to all the funerals, but gone from his sign this time was any criticism of Mayor de Blasio.
Indeed, the political acrimony that clung to the two funerals late last year and in January — coming as they did amid roiling national debate and protest over police brutality — has faded. Officers who turned their back on the Mayor for the funerals of Officers Ramos and Liu stood respectfully during that of Officer Moore.
In its place, common bonds of service that united four officers from diverse backgrounds, from Queens, China, Long Island and Guyana.
Officer Holder came to New York 12 years ago to join his father, a former police officer in Guyana. He worked as a security guard and longed to join the Police Department. One of Officer Holder’s supervisors, a retired New York City police inspector, took an interest in the young man and helped him navigate the byzantine application process, officials said. He joined the department in 2010. He wore badge number 13340.
Officer Holder, 33, knew well the dangers of the job. A decorated officer who worked with a plainclothes unit in some of Manhattan’s most crime-troubled housing developments, he checked in regularly with relatives in Lodge, his hometown suburb of Georgetown, Guyana.
Though privately he fretted over the presence of guns on the streets he patrolled, on the night of October 20, he and a partner, Omar Wallace, went toward the promenade, along the Harlem River, where an armed gunman had been seen fleeing.
On Wednesday, police officers in knee-length dark raincoats shook themselves off in a foyer of the cathedral. A thicket of blue uniforms — worn by officers from places such as Annapolis, Md., Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and Waller County, Tex. — stretched for blocks on Merrick Boulevard, in both directions from the church in Jamaica, Queens.
At noon, Leeds Jean, a member of the 67th Precinct’s clergy council, stepped outside in a long royal blue shirt and black skullcap and blew six times from a shofar, a horn.
“The shofar sound is the sound of mourning,” said Mr. Jean, who described himself as a Judeo-Christian minister at True Vine Ministries/The Last Resort in Brooklyn.
Loraine Stephen, 63, who is from Guyana and now lives in Jamaica, arrived early hoping for a seat near Officer Holder’s family. Though she did not know Officer Holder, she said she felt immense gratitude toward him.
“I am proud, as a Guyanese,” said Ms. Stephen, describing Officer Holder as a “fallen hero.”
Billy Plume Sr., a contractor from Ronkonkoma, stood under an awning near the church flipping through screen shots of what he said were text messages between Officer Holder and his fellow officers, which included Mr. Plume’s son.
One of the messages was a question: Better to be a lion in charge of 1,000 sheep, or a sheep in charge of 1,000 lions?
Officer Holder responded by sending a picture of a lion, and a message that it was better to live one day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep.
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