NEW YORK – A police officer who was critically injured last weekend while responding to a mattress fire in a Brooklyn apartment building succumbed to his injuries Wednesday, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said, noting that the father of four "died trying to save others."
Dennis Guerra, 38, who had more than seven years with the New York Police Department, was pronounced dead at a hospital in the Bronx, Bratton said. His partner, Rosa Rodriguez, who also responded to the fire Sunday in the Coney Island public housing building, remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Guerra's death, Bratton said, should remind everyone how quickly a routine call can become deadly for an officer.
"Police Officer Guerra gave his life trying to save others," he said. "And that is the ultimate selfless act."
Police have arrested a 16-year-old boy they allege started the fire out of boredom. Marcell Dockery was arraigned Monday on charges of assault, arson and reckless endangerment and held without bail. Attorney information for him wasn't available.
It wasn't immediately clear if prosecutors would upgrade the charges against Dockery. A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn district attorney's office didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at an unrelated event Wednesday morning, led a moment of silence for the fallen officer.
"We've lost a good man this morning," de Blasio said. "We had a very brave police officer Dennis Guerra who did something that most of us wouldn't understand how to do.
"He went towards those in danger no matter the risk to him. It's something that our police officers do every day, it's something our first responders do every day, it's something we need to appreciate every day."
City flags were ordered to fly at half-staff Wednesday and the commissioner was expected to preside over a ceremony in Guerra's honor at police headquarters.
Guerra and Rodriguez, responding to a 911 call of a suspicious fire in the hallway, took an elevator up to the 13th floor of the building when they were immediately exposed to a wave of smoke, suffering carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation, Bratton said.
Firefighters found the officers in the pitch black and pulled both back into the elevator and brought them downstairs where they were treated by EMS personnel, Bratton said.
Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said in a statement that Guerra's death shouldn't be in vain.
"We pray that every young person who hears of the tragic passing of hero police officer Dennis Guerra and of the suffering of officer Rosa Rodriguez and their families learns that there deadly consequences that result from foolish actions," he said.
Guerra's death was the first of an NYPD officer in the line of duty since 2011, when an officer was shot and killed responding to a robbery in Brooklyn, police said.
He leaves behind a wife, Cathy, and children, Kathleen, 20; Jonathan, 17; Alyssa, 14; and Zachary, 7, Bratton said.
Associated Press writers Kiley Armstrong and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.