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Queens borough president holds candlelight vigil in memory of fallen police officers

Photo courtesy Chris Barca – Office of the Queens Borough President
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for fallen officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, and recognized Queens resident Officer Sumit Sulan who also responded to the incident, on Feb. 2, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Chris Barca/Office of the Queens Borough President

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr., NYPD officials and community leaders from across Queens gathered for a candlelight vigil in memory of fallen NYPD Officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora on Wednesday, Feb. 2.

Officer Rivera, 22, and Officer Mora, 27, were ambushed and killed in a hail of gunfire while responding to a domestic disturbance call in Harlem on Friday, Jan. 21. Rivera died the same night shortly after the shooting, and Mora was on life support until Jan. 25 to recover his organs for transplant.

The wakes and funerals for officers Rivera and Mora were held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan on Jan. 28 and Feb. 2, respectively, as thousands of police officers lined Fifth Avenue to bid their final farewell. Both officers were posthumously promoted to Detective First-Grade by NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell.

NYPD officers carry the casket of NYPD Officer Jason Rivera to the hearse after his funeral service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on Jan. 28, 2022. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
An NYPD officer salutes Dominique Luzuriaga, the widow of NYPD Officer Jason Rivera, after his funeral service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on Jan. 28, 2022. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
Thousands of police officers pay their respect as the hearse with the casket of fallen NYPD Officer Wilbert Mora makes its way down Fifth Avenue in New York on Feb. 2, 2022. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann/Sipa USA)

The vigil also recognized New York City’s first responders and NYPD Officer Sumit Sulan, a Queens resident, who responded to the domestic violence call with his brothers in blue. Officer Sulan shot and killed the suspected gunman, 47-year-old Lashawn McNeil, possibly preventing further loss of life.

Richards opened the vigil, thanking Reverend Newton, Rabbi Mendelson and Imam Safraz Bacchus for leading those assembled in prayer, followed by a moment of silence.

Richards shared that he had been to his share of funerals for police officers and how devastating it was to see the pain and agony in the faces and eyes of family members and NYPD officers, knowing that it could have easily been them in the casket.

“But these two funerals hit different,” Richards said. “They struck a different chord with me — not only as an elected official but also as a Black man living in southeast Queens.”

He recalled that Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora were young, bright men of color who dedicated their careers to a more inclusive, community-first style of policing.

“They were men who came of age in a post-Eric Garner New York and a post-Ferguson America — a period where policing become polarizing,” Richards pointed out. “They came up in a time where it can feel like you have to choose whether Black lives or blue lives matter most. But Detectives Rivera and Mora didn’t see things that way.”

(Photo courtesy of Chris Barca/Office of the Queens Borough President)

Mora and Rivera wanted to make a difference and change the relationship between police and their communities for the better. While attending the police academy in 2020, Detective Rivera wrote a letter titled, “Why I Became a Police Officer.”

In that letter, he spoke of watching his brother stopped and frisked. He shared how deeply that troubled him. But he also spoke of how much that inspired him to be the change he wanted to see.

“This was when I realized that I wanted to be part of the men in blue, to better the relationship between the community and the police,” Rivera wrote.

“Think about the courage it took Detective Rivera to write those words,” Richards said. “He could have turned his anger inward at himself or outward at the world. But he didn’t.”

Richards pointed out that when Detectives Rivera and Mora and NYPD Officer Sulan answered the call on Jan. 21, they were doing exactly that, working in a community of color to improve trust and save lives.

“It’s a damn shame they aren’t alive today,” Richards said. “We’ve been robbed of two of New York City’s finest.”

Richards reminded NYPD Officer Sulan that his home borough of Queens was standing behind him to lift him up, and promised that he and his family would always have the support of his extended Queens family.

He stressed the importance of shutting down the “Iron Pipeline,” a route along the I95 corridor where guns from states with lax gun laws are brought to New York state.

“There are no gun manufacturers on 135th Street in Harlem, in southeast Queens, or anywhere else in this city,” Richards said. “But we’re still losing neighbors, and now police officers, to this scourge at an unacceptable rate.”

(Photo courtesy of Chris Barca/Office of the Queens Borough President)
(Photo courtesy of Chris Barca/Office of the Queens Borough President)
(Photo courtesy Chris Barca/Office of the Queens Borough President)

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