A memorial service was held Tuesday morning in Queens, New York, to remember two New York Police Department (NYPD) officers who were ambushed and fatally shot while sitting in their patrol car two years ago.
Around 500 people, including fellow officers, family, and friends, attended the Christ Tabernacle church to pay tribute to Dets. Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, according to Jose Falero, vice president of The Detective Rafael Ramos Foundation.
Both officers, assigned to the 84th Precinct, were killed on Dec. 20, 2014, when 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley fired a gun into their marked cruiser while they sat parked on a Brooklyn street. Brinsley had a history of arrests and occasionally ranted against police on social media. He took his own life with the same gun later in the day.
"We gather here today not to relive the pain of that day but to celebrate the lives of these incredible men,” Police Commissioner James O'Neill said. "To remember the contributions they made in life, to remember the impact they made on their families, their neighbors, their co-workers, and people who never even met them."
Falero told NBC News that Maritza Ramos, the slain detective’s wife, and their two sons are coping as best they can.
“What’s helped her a lot has been starting her foundation in her husband’s name, just keeping the memory alive,” said Falero, a fellow police officer. “I think [for] this two-year mark, she is trying to honor him as much as she can.”
Falero, who knew 40-year-old Ramos through Christ Tabernacle, said one goal of the foundation is to bring together members of law enforcement and the community. To that end, the foundation plans to organize future events such as little league baseball and youth basketball tournaments, Falero said.
It is also developing a scholarship fund, though details are still being worked out, he said.
The one-year-old foundation’s overarching mission, Falero added, is driven by the life Ramos lived.
“He really took the time out to help people, whether it was volunteering his time feeding the homeless or helping [Hurricane] Sandy victims recover,” he said. “Even in church, he would counsel marriages, if they were going through anything or if they just needed some marriage advice.”
Through her husband’s foundation, Maritza Ramos was also able to make a difference for the families of five slain officers and seven others wounded in Dallas, Texas, after a police ambush in July.
She and Pei Xia Chen, Liu’s widow, were among the first to donate $10,000 to a fund established by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which had raised more than $1 million for the Ramos and Liu families. Tunnel to Towers representatives traveled to Texas this week to present $610,000 in donations to the Dallas police officers’ families.
As another year passes marking the death of Ramos and Liu, Falero said he hopes people remember his friend and fellow churchgoer as a hero — as someone who gave both on and off the job.
“Whether it was through advice or just rolling up his sleeves, he was somebody who was very interested in serving God and helping the community,” Falero said.