As thousands of police officers from New York to California gathered outside, the funeral service for Officer Jason Rivera, who was shot and killed last week in Harlem, was held on Friday morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with a solemn homily and moving reflections that recalled Officer Rivera’s dreams of making a meaningful change in his community and on the force.
Commissioner Keechant Sewell described Officer Rivera’s infectious spirit and deep influence on those around him.
“This has always been a city of lights, and police officer Jason Rivera was one of the brightest,” she said. “Jason rose to every challenge that crossed his path.”
Her reflections came toward the middle of a funeral service in which both Officer Rivera and his partner, Wilbert Mora, 27, were on the minds of the audience. Officer Mora also died of his wounds, making the shooting the first in more than seven years in which two city officers have been killed together on the job.
“The horror that took their lives is an affront to every decent, caring human being in this city and beyond,” Ms. Sewell said. “Their assassinations, the dousing of Jason’s thousand-watt smile that lifted the spirits of those fortunate to know him shocks sensibilities and leads others to despair.”
The speech at the service was Ms. Sewell’s most significant public address since she took over the department less than one month ago, chosen for the job by Mayor Eric Adams over several others candidates with more extensive resumes, as he praised her level of emotional intelligence.
In her rousing eulogy, Ms. Sewell recalled what she said was Officer Rivera’s impressive level of maturity at such a young age — something she said was “noted repeatedly by his colleagues” — while also gently teasing him for his sports allegiances.
“When Jason was a child, he played multiple sports and he wholeheartedly loved the New York Mets — because he didn’t know any better,” she said, to laughs from the audience.
As a sea of blue uniforms gathered under snow flurries outside the landmark church on Fifth Avenue, listening to the speeches of speakers, Gov. Kathy Hochul and other state and city officials were inside. Officer Rivera’s his wife, Dominique Luzuriaga, and his brother, Jeffrey Rivera, spoke movingly at the service.
Officer Rivera was a 22-year-old rookie who had been assigned to the 32nd Precinct in Harlem last year. In many ways he was representative of the new generation of Latino officers rising in a police department that was once overwhelmingly white.
His family immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic, and he had joined the force fueled by an aspiration to strengthen relationships between the police and the people they serve, after seeing firsthand as he grew up how easily tensions could arise.
On Friday, Commissioner Sewell gave Officer Rivera a posthumous promotion to detective first-grade the highest rank for a detective, part of a long tradition in the department for officers killed in the line of duty.
Other officers in the precinct shared their pain over Officer Rivera’s untimely death at vigils and memorials over the last the week.
They were among the many across the city who were shaken in the days after the shooting, as the gunfire ushered in the collective sense of pain felt in New York when an officer is lost on the job. In the first 20 days of the year, three other officers were shot, but all survived without debilitating injuries.
A private ceremony for Officer Rivera was scheduled for later on Friday at a cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y. The details of Officer Mora’s funeral had not yet been made public on Thursday night.
They were part of a team of three officers who responded on Friday evening last week to a 911 call at a Harlem apartment: a mother had asked the police to speak with her adult son, Lashawn McNeil, 47, after he verbally threatened her. She made no mention of weapons in the apartment.
When the officers arrived, they met the mother at the door, who told them that her son was in a back bedroom, the police said. She asked him to come out from the room, which was at the end of a long, narrow hallway. But he did not join them.
Officers Rivera and Mora made their way down the hall toward the door, one of them calling out for Mr. McNeil. The third officer, a trainee, stayed back to speak with his mother and a brother who was also there.
But as the two officers neared the bedroom, Mr. McNeil opened fire with a pistol, gravely wounding them both. The third officer shot Mr. McNeil twice, in the head and arm. He died on Monday.