Tension Between Cops and Mayor de Blasio Persist at Funeral
Hundreds of police officers turned their backs on the New York mayor Bill de Blasio on Saturday as he spoke during the funeral service for Rafael Ramos, one of two New York Police Department officers killed in an ambush shooting in Brooklyn last week.
Thousands of officers gathered outside Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens for the funeral, where speakers included vice-president Joe Biden, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton.
Ramos and his partner, Wenjian Liu, were shot dead last Saturday by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who had posted anti-police statements on social-media. Police have said Brinsley, who killed himself, was troubled and had first shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore before travelling to Brooklyn.
At a hospital after the shooting, the police union’s president, Patrick Lynch, and others turned their backs on the mayor in a sign of disrespect. Lynch blamed the mayor then for the officers’ deaths and said he had blood on his hands, because of comments made by de Blasio in relation to protests in the city last month over the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man, at the hands of police in July.
“Our hearts are aching, we’re feeling this physically,” De Blasio said at the funeral, in remarks greeted inside the church with polite applause. “All of this city is grieving … for so many reasons but the most personal is that we’ve lost such a good man.”
Outside the church, many officers turned their backs on screens showing the service.
Asked by television reporters outside the church for comment on the officers’ decision to turn their backs, Lynch said: “The feeling is real, but today is about mourning, tomorrow is about debate.”
Pressed on the point, Lynch said: “We have to understand the betrayal that they feel. ”
On Friday, the mayor briefly attended Ramos’ wake at the church in Queens. There was no noticeable reaction from officers upon his arrival, and Ramos’s family said they would welcome the mayor’s presence at the funeral.
The same day, an anonymous person paid for a an aerial sign to be flown over New York City. It read: “de Blasio, our backs have turned to you.”
On Saturday, De Blasio and Lynch nodded at each other as they left the church and lined up to wait for the casket.
Speaking before de Blasio at Saturday’s funeral, Biden said “I’m sure I speak for the whole nation when I say our hearts speak for you”, adding: “This is probably the finest police department in the world.”
“When an assassin’s bullet targeted two officers,” he said, “it targeted this city and it touched the soul of an entire nation.”
Cuomo called the shootings “an attack on all of us” and said: “In New York, Mr Vice-President, the knife of division breaks on the rock of civility.”
Nearly three miles down the road from where Ramos and his partner were shot as they sat in their patrol car, officers wearing black strips over their badges stood outside the church. Sniffer dogs and suited men with earpieces wandered through the crowd.
Both officers were members of the 84th precinct, whose officers entered the church first, followed by some of Ramos’s family and friends. Justin Ramos, the officer’s eldest son, was wearing his father’s jacket.
Officers from as far away as California and Canada attended, including members of the Los Angeles Police Department, according to officials. Members of the Fire Department of New York were also outside the church.
The NYPD has warned offers to increase vigilance since the shooting. The gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, made anti-police statements before shooting the two officers. By Saturday, nine arrests had been made for making threats to police.
In his speech, addressing Ramos’s widow, Maritza, Biden said: “Your husband, and his partner, they were a part of New York’s finest, and that’s not an idle phrase. I believe that this great police force of this incredibly diverse city can and will show the nation how to bridge any divide. You’ve done it before and you will do it again.”
Ramos, a 40-year-old married father of two, was studying to become a pastor and kept Bible study books in his locker, his commanding officer said.
Ramos and Liu were the first officers to die in the line of duty in New York since 2011. They have both been posthumously promoted to first-grade detective, police said.
Funeral plans for his partner, Officer Liu, have yet to be announced.