NEW YORK – Thousands of people were expected to attend the funeral of a New York City police officer shot to death along with his partner one week ago in a brazen daylight ambush that shook the city and put an end to large-scale local protests criticizing police following a series of high-profile deaths in police custody.
Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Bill de Blasio were expected to speak Saturday at the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos, who was described the day before during an eight-hour wake attended by thousands of police officers from New York and across the country as a selfless, caring and compassionate man.
"What happened to my father was a tragedy," Ramos' son, Justin Ramos, said in a tearful eulogy viewed by hundreds of officers in the street who watched on giant television screens outside the crowded Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens. "But his death will not be in vain."
Ramos, a 40-year-old married father of two, was studying to become a pastor and kept Bible study books in his locker, his commanding officer said.
Funeral plans for his partner, Officer Wenjian Liu, have yet to be announced.
The officers were killed Dec. 20 while sitting in their patrol car on a Brooklyn street. Investigators have said the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was troubled and had shot and wounded an ex-girlfriend in Baltimore earlier that day.
Brinsley killed himself soon after the shooting. In online posts shortly before the attack, Brinsley referenced the killings of two unarmed black men — Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island — by white police officers.
Police union officials have said de Blasio contributed to a climate of mistrust toward police amid protests over the deaths of Brown and Garner. At a hospital after the shooting, the police union's president, Patrick Lynch, and others turned their backs on the mayor in a sign of disrespect. Lynch blamed the mayor then for the officers' deaths and said he had blood on his hands.
Weeks before the shooting, Lynch suggested that officers sign a petition requesting that the mayor not attend their funerals were they to die in the line of duty.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan and others have since called to temper the rhetoric.
De Blasio has stood firmly by the police since the shooting, calling on the demonstrators to temporarily halt their protests and praising officers after the police department announced the arrest of a seventh person since the shooting for making threats against police.
On Thursday, the mayor briefly attend Ramos' wake but made no comments. There was no noticeable reaction from the officers upon his arrival, and Ramos' family has said they welcome the mayor's presence at the funeral.
Ramos and Liu were the first officers to die in the line of duty in New York since 2011.
They have both been posthumously promoted to first-grade detective, police said.