NEW YORK – The public needs to step up to protect police at a time when they’re under attack, New York’s mayor and police commissioner said Tuesday as they paid respects to an officer ambushed and killed in a parked police vehicle.
“We’ve watched with horror these attacks on our police here in New York City and all around our country. It sickens us, and we know they cannot be tolerated, and we know they must end,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at Officer Miosotis Familia’s funeral at a 4,000-seat landmark theater-turned-church in the Bronx.
“We must end it,” he said. “We must help our police in every way, just as we ask them to help us in our moment of need. … They need us to be their eyes and ears. They need our solidarity and support.”
Taking aim at protesters and the media for what he sees as too much criticism of officers, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said Familia’s death “should remind everybody that the civility of our city rests on a knife’s edge.”
“Where are the demonstrations for the single mom who cared for her elderly mother and three children?” he asked to a thunderous, extended standing ovation from an audience packed with officers. “There is anger and sorrow, but why is there no outrage?”
He called safety a shared responsibility between police and residents and pressed the public “to make a commitment to help your police.”
The Democratic mayor’s remarks came after he faced criticism – some tweeted by Republican President Donald Trump – for spending the weekend with world leaders in Germany days after Familia’s July 5 death. De Blasio attended Monday’s wake.
“She embodied the American dream,” de Blasio said Tuesday, calling Familia a hero who “lived life the right way.”
A sea of police in blue uniforms filled the theater and the street outside to pay tribute to the 12-year officer and former health care worker, who was later buried at a nearby cemetery. One of 10 children of immigrant parents, she was the first person in her family to go to college and had always wanted to be a police officer, her family said.
“She was brave enough to do that knowing that there’s consequences, like danger, but she loved us,” said her 12-year-old son, Peter Vega, whom she called Jacob. “She wanted to sacrifice for us, so she did it.”
Familia was posthumously promoted Tuesday to detective. To her family, she was also a “protector, defender, guidance counselor, spiritual adviser … philosopher, philanthropist, theorist and mother,” said her 20-year-old daughter, Genesis Vilella. Familia’s other daughter, Delilah Vega, is Peter’s twin.
Familia was the first female New York Police Department officer to die in the line of duty since 9/11. At 48, she was in an RV-like command post stationed in a crime-ridden Bronx precinct when Alexander Bonds walked up and fired once through the passenger window, striking Familia in the head. Officers killed Bonds after he turned the gun on them, police said.
An ex-convict, the 34-year-old had railed about police and prison officers in a Facebook video last fall. Days before the shooting, Bonds got a psychiatric evaluation at a hospital, which released him.
Calvin Hunt, a Bronx community organizer, stood across the street from Familia’s funeral, holding a large color photo of her that he’d made.
“I took this hard,” said Hunt, 55. “Then I heard about her character, and I made it my business to come out here.”
His 12-year-old daughter, Olivia, cried as she talked about the officer’s death.
“If I would have lost somebody, I would have felt” as her children did, Olivia said. “And even worse because of the way she was targeted.”
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