One of the police officers killed while in his New York Police Department cruiser was a devoutly religious man who saw his police work as a form of ministry.
Rafael Ramos, who had recently turned 40 and had been a school resource officer, joined the NYPD three years ago because he wanted to serve his community. The day he was killed he was supposed to graduate from a chaplaincy program so he could go into full-time ministry after retirement.
“Ralph Ramos was a family man that loved his wife and his sons. You couldn’t have a conversation without them coming up,” Pastor Ralph Castillo of the Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens told Fox News Latino on Monday. “He loved volunteering at the church. His smile was infectious and … he would make you feel at home. We are really going to miss him.”
He said one of the biggest messages they have is to encourage parishioners to find ways to express their faith in their vocations and it was something Ramos did all the time.
“He was not just a churchgoer. He lived out his faith while he worked,” Castillo said. “This was a guy who loved his family, loved his city and loved his church. The city lost a great guy.”
Ramos’ cousin Ronnie echoed the pastor’s words, telling the Wall Street Journal: “My cousin had a couple of priorities in his life. One was God, because he was a God-loving man. I wish I could be half the man my cousin was. He was sweet. He didn’t deserve … to die.”
Ramos was shot in the head at point-blank range on Saturday along with his partner, Officer Wenjian Liu, 32. Police said Ismaaiyl Brinsley killed them after venting online about wanting to kill two cops in revenge for the police-involved deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
“I know when he was out there he was doing his job as a police officer and also as a religious man,” said Jose Rodriguez, president of the NYPD’s 75th precinct who was a personal friend of Ramos, according to the New York Post. “His family is very hurt.”
Rodriguez said Ramos went into police work because he loved helping others.
“[Ramos] was in the community. He was a community guy. He’d go to the church with his family. He’d go to the pizzeria. A regular father,” Rodriguez said. “(Helping others) that was his passion; that’s what he loved doing.”
The killing came at a time of rising tensions between police and the community following the chokehold death of Garner and the killing of Brown in Missouri.
Friends and family said Ramos wanted to end the hostility between police and the communities he served through his love for God.
“He wanted to be a different kind of cop. He wanted to talk about God, put God on the street, bring something more to the uniform,” said Jose Ortiz, a retired cop who heads security at the Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens where Ramos had been a member for 14 years, according to the New York Daily News.
In fact, the Ramos family said their religious beliefs helped them find compassion following the cold-blooded killing.
“We don’t blame [Brinsley],” Ramos’ cousin, Richard Gonzalez, said. “The Ramos family forgives him. I know if Rafael was here, and it was the opposite, (he) would say the same words.”
Ramos’ youngest son, Jaden, who is 13, was effusive in describing his father on Facebook, calling him the best dad “I could ask.”
“Today I had to say bye to my father,” he wrote on Saturday. “He was there for me every day of my life, he was the best father I could ask. It’s horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer. Everyone says they hate cops but they are the people that they call for help. I will always love you and I will never forget you. RIP Dad.”
On Monday, the charity founded by the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner announced it would be setting aside $40,000 for the education of Ramos' two sons.
Maine's Bowdoin College, where Ramos’ oldest one, Justin, was a student, announced on Monday that it was going to cover his education costs.
The college in Brunswick tweeted on Monday that it will provide "full financial aid to enable the son of slain NYPD officer to complete his Bowdoin education."
Castillo said members of the church have been with the family to help them through this difficult time.
"We are standing with them. This is a very, very difficult time for Maritza and the boys," he said.