Bratton honors Far Rock officer who died in Coney Island fire

By Christina Santucci

A Far Rockaway police officer and father of four who died after he was critically injured responding to a fire at a Coney Island housing development Sunday was honored by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and his fellow officers at noon Wednesday.

Police Officer Dennis Guerra, 38, died just before 7 a.m. Wednesday at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, three days after he and his partner, 36-year-old Police Officer Rosa Rodriguez, of Howard Beach, rushed to evacuate tenants of a Coney Island building, where a fire broke out on the 13th floor, NYPD said.

Guerra and Rodriguez, both from Housing Bureau Police Service Area 1, responded to 911 calls about the suspicious blaze at 2007 Surf Ave. in Brooklyn at about 12:30 p.m. and took an elevator to the 13th floor, where they were overcome by smoke, police said.

Firefighters found the officers unconscious on a hallway floor and emergency personnel rushed both to the hospital, according to the NYPD. Guerra was resuscitated in the field before arriving at Coney Island Hospital, then air-lifted to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.

Rodriguez was initially taken to Lutheran Hospital in Brooklyn before she was transferred to Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, where she was intubated and placed in a hyperbaric chamber, authorities said. Both officers were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning and the effects of smoke inhalation, police said.

On Monday, 16-year-old Marcell Dockery, who lived in the building, was arrested and charged with setting the fire, which later resulted in Guerra’s death, the NYPD said.

“It is a startling reminder that what can appear to be a routine assignment can very quickly become deadly. Police Officer Guerra gave his life trying to save others. And that is the ultimate selfless act,” Bratton said during the ceremony at 1 Police Plaza. “The actions of Police Officers Guerra and Rodriguez exemplify the courage shown day in and day out by our police officers.”

During the memorial at the NYPD’s Manhattan headquarters, “Taps” was played as an American flag was lowered. An NYPD helicopter flew overhead afterward.

“He comes from a police family,” said Bratton, who offered his condolences to Guerra’s relatives.

The Far Rockaway officer leaves behind his wife Cathy and four children — Kathleen, 20; Jonathan, 17; Alyssa, 14; and Zachary, 7 — according to police.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was speaking at the National Action Network’s 16th annual convention, asked the group to pause for a moment of silence in Guerra’s memory.

“He went to try to save people in need, and he has now lost his life,” the mayor said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “And I’ve gotten to know his family in the last few days — wonderful, close family grappling with this tragedy, and I just want everyone to know that on behalf of all 8.4 million New Yorkers, our hearts go out to the Guerra family. We will stand by them. We will stand by them in their grief and beyond. We will honor his sacrifice.”

Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at timesledgerphotos@gmail.com by phone at 718-260-4589.