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 eulogized 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.
“But in fact,” he added, “we must end it. It’s not a one-way street, my friends. 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 and order a shared responsibility between police and residents and pressed the public “to make a commitment to help your police, to work with us.”
De Blasio’s remarks came after he faced complaints from critics — including President Donald Trump — for spending the weekend with world leaders in Germany as his city grappled with Familia’s death, which happened early on July 5. De Blasio attended Monday’s wake.
“She embodied the American dream” and “a beautiful New York City story,” de Blasio said Tuesday, calling Familia a hero who “lived life the right way.”
A sea of police in blue uniforms filled the landmark Bronx theater and the street outside to pay tribute to Familia, a 12-year officer, former health-care worker and single mother of three who also cared for her 86-year-old mother. A child of immigrants who was the first person in her family to go to college, she 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, who has a twin sister, Delilah. “She wanted to sacrifice for us, so she did it.”
The New York Post reported that some of the officers outside turned their backs on the screen broadcasting de Blasio’s remarks, calling to mind an incident in 2015 when officers attending a funeral for an officer similarly killed out of spite turned their backs on de Blasio in protest.
Familia was posthumously promoted Tuesday to detective. And 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, 48, was in an RV-like command post stationed in a crime-ridden Bronx precinct early Wednesday when 34-year-old Alexander Bonds walked up to the vehicle and fired once through the passenger window, striking Familia in the head. Bonds ran from the scene but police caught up to him and opened fire, killing him after they said he turned the gun on them. Bonds had sought psychiatric care just days earlier.
An ex-convict, he had railed about police and prison officers in a social-media post last fall.
At the wake Monday, Bronx resident Bill Simpson, 56, said he felt the need to mourn the loss of Familia, even though he never met her.
“It hurt everybody. All of us feel it,” he said.
After joining the NYPD in 2005, Familia worked her entire career in the Bronx precinct where she was killed.
Familia is the first female New York Police Department officer to die in the line of duty since 9/11.