His family, his church, and the police force in which he served. These were the pillars of life for slain New York Police Officer Rafael Ramos, remembered at his wake Friday night and funeral Saturday morning.
As most officers are, he was more than a beat cop.
He had just finished the 10-week certification course to become a police chaplain – a job in which he could expect to be called upon to help those thinking about suicide, abused women, frightened elderly neighbors, and others bearing emotional and psychological burdens.
At Christ Tabernacle, the church in Queens he and his family – his wife Maritza and sons Justin and Jaden – attended, Officer Ramos was an usher and he participated in the marriage and life group ministries.
Ramos “had an infectious and disarming smile,” the church said in a statement. “He was a humble man and was willing to help at any capacity; helping people to their seats, moms with their baby carriages or the elderly in and out of our elevator.”
“He loved God and he loved humanity,” Rev. Marcos Miranda, president of the New York State Chaplain Task Force, told the Huffington Post. “He thought being an NYPD officer was like doing ministry to God by protecting and serving your community.”
Family members spoke at a memorial service Friday evening.
“My father was a man of character. He was a selfless man," said Justin Ramos, a sophomore at Bowdoin College in Maine. "He always went above and beyond for his family, constantly putting everyone before himself. Dad, I'm forever grateful for the sacrifices you made to provide for me and Jaden."
Being his sister was “the highest honor,” Cindy Ramos said at the service.
Thousands of people, including many police officers from around the country gathered Saturday morning for Officer Ramos’s funeral. Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Bill de Blasio were among the speakers.
"When an assassin's bullet targeted two officers, it targeted this city and it touched the soul of an entire nation," the Vice President said.
"The time will come when Rafael’s memory will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eyes," Mr. Biden told the Ramos family. "I speak for the whole nation when I say our hearts ache for you."
Officer Ramos and his partner Officer Wenjian Liu were shot to death while sitting in their patrol car on a Brooklyn street Dec. 20
Before he attacked the two officers, Ismaaiyl Brinsley had referred in online posts to the high-profile killings by white police officers of unarmed black men, specifically Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island. Brinsley, who was black, committed suicide soon after shooting the officers.
The killing of Officers Ramos and Liu came amidst a tense national debate over police conduct – especially the way white officers treat black men. Since the deaths of Ramos and Liu, police in New York say they have arrested seven people accused of threatening officers.
Speaking outside the church Friday evening, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would be convening a group “to learn the lessons” from the tragedy, hoping to better protect police officers while building trust in the criminal justice system, the New York Times reported.
“Right now the first step is healing,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This is first and foremost a personal tragedy for two beautiful families.”
Funeral plans for Officer Liu have yet to be announced. One consideration here has been allowing time for family members to travel from China. Officer Liu was recently married
Foundations and other charities have said they will help the two officers’ families, paying off mortgages and education costs.