New York City officials and members of law enforcement gathered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan Saturday morning for an emotionally raw and occasionally fiery memorial service, one year after two police officers were shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence call.
Mayor Eric Adams, a retired police officer whose tough-on-crime campaign platform played a central role in his election as mayor, commended the officers, Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, for their bravery, his voice breaking as he spoke of their deaths in the line of duty last January.
“I cannot imagine the pain that is associated with losing these two young men — 22 years old, and 27 years old,” Adams said. “It breaks our heart every day that the Commissioner and I go to the hospital and watch young people being lost at such a promising age.”
Rivera, 22, and Mora, 27, were killed in a shooting that broke out as they were responding to a report of domestic violence in a Harlem home on Jan. 21, 2022. A woman had alerted police that she feared violence from her son, Lashawn McNeil, who also died in the shootout. Rivera was the first to succumb to his injuries and Mora died shortly after. A third officer on the scene survived.
“Although I can understand that for most of you, life went on, it feels like time has stopped for me,” said Dominique Rivera, Rivera’s widow. “I could still feel the coldness in his face when I caressed it for the last time. And I can still smell the embalming fluid that was spread all over his body.”
“Somehow, there was a tiny bit of hope that he'd wake up as he lay in his casket peacefully,” she said.
The officers were both of Dominican descent and young members of a police force whose history of aggressive tactics in Black and Latino communities has prompted cries for reform, from the public and from a faction of members within the department.
Rivera wrote about his own experience of being stopped by police without cause growing up in Inwood, Manhattan, and cited his desire to improve community relations in a letter to a commanding officer at his police academy, several news outlets reported at the time. Mora, who was born in the Dominican Republic, studied the effects of stop-and-frisk policing and alternative strategies that were less aggressive at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, according to The New York Times.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said officers continue to face the same dangers faced by Rivera and Mora.
“Every single day, the women and men of the NYPD don the same uniforms they wore, answer the same types of jobs they did, knowing the danger that they too face, knowing the cold blooded abomination that the Rivera and Mora families, the 32 Precinct and the entire NYPD horrifically became victims to one night,” Sewell said.
“One husband, two sons, brothers and family stolen from this department and this city on a bitter January night. This job, this career takes enough out of us,” she said. “It shouldn't also take our heroes away from us.”
Adams has become a familiar presence at the funerals and memorial services of law enforcement officers since ascending to City Hall. During his time with the NYPD, Adams was one of the co-founders of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, which was formed to improve police relations with the Black community.
The memorial service on Saturday ended with a police officer singing God Bless America, before a line of officers carrying flags marched to the front of the altar to a religious hymn.