Aid to slain NYC officers' families unites city
Updated: 2014-12-24 07:07
By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York(China Daily USA)
As New York City mourned the two policemen slain execution style in their patrol car, the sometimes fractious city coalesced around providing aid to the officers' families.
Wenjian Liu, 32, was a seven-year veteran of the New York Police Department, and Rafael Ramos, 40, was a two-year veteran. Both were shot dead on Dec 20 as they sat in their marked patrol car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn by a deranged gunman, Ismaayil Brinsley, 28, who later shot and killed himself in a subway station.
The aid to the slain policemen's families included paying their mortgages, the establishment of a charity for them and paying for the education of Ramos' children.
Liu's widow, Pei Xia Chen, made her first public statement on Monday.
"The Liu family would like to express our gratitude and our appreciation to the police department, our neighbors, the entire New York City community, friends and co-workers for the help and the support they provide," she read from the stoop of the Brooklyn home she shared with Liu.
"This is a difficult time for both of our families," Chen, told reporters. "But we will stand together and get through this together." She also expressed her condolences to Ramos's widow and children.
Liu hailed from Guangzhou, China, and came to New York with his family when he was a teenager to seek the American Dream, his family said. He was killed nearly 20 years to the day of his arrival in America - Christmas Eve 1994.
This year he moved to a home in Brooklyn's Gravesend section and got married just two months ago. Liu was considered a valuable asset to the NYPD because he was conversant in several Chinese dialects and helped the department with community relations in Chinese neighborhoods.
The New York Daily News reported on Tuesday that Liu volunteered to work a shift when a fellow officer was late. Liu took the assignment after his precinct in downtown Brooklyn asked for someone to volunteer as a replacement. "He wasn't supposed to be there," a police source said, according to the newspaper.
Families of both slain policemen are awaiting relatives from outside the city. Liu's will arrive from China, with the help of officials securing travel documents, and Ramos' from Puerto Rico, where he has his roots. Ramos' funeral will be on Saturday. Liu's family has not yet set a date for his funeral.
On Tuesday, a charity created in the wake of 9/11, said it will take over mortgage payments for the families of the slain officers, according to the New York Post. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation - which supports "first responders" - will immediately begin funding both families' remaining mortgage payments, the group said in a statement.
"When my brother Stephen died on 9/11 along with 342 other firefighters, our family decided that the best way to honor his memory was by supporting first responders," said Frank Siller, CEO of the foundation.
A foundation founded by late New York Yankees baseball team owner George Steinbrenner announced it will cover the education costs for Ramos' sons. The Yankee Silver Shield Foundation will pay for the education of Officer Rafael Ramos' 13-year-old son Jaden and another son, Justin, who is in college.
Meanwhile, Barry Mills, president of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, told Justin's family that the college would provide full financial aid to enable Ramos to complete his Bowdoin education, according to the Bangor Daily News.
The Daily News, which started a charity fund for the families, reported that a US Justice Department official said Attorney General Eric Holder asked department officials involved in administering a Public Safety Officers Benefits Program "to proactively reach out to the families" of the fallen NYPD officers to inform them of the program and help them submit claims.
The program provides one-time death benefit payments to children or spouses of officers killed in the line of duty and financial assistance for surviving children or spouses to defray educational expenses.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would consider measures to protect police and help families of slain officers. Cuomo and state lawmakers will weigh proposals to improve pension benefits for widows and retrofit police vehicles with bulletproof glass when the Legislature convenes next month.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will attend the funeral on Saturday for Ramos. The city's largest police union began encouraging officers earlier this month to sign a letter saying the mayor was not welcome at their funeral should they be killed in the line of duty. Earlier, de Blasio had called for a temporary halt to protests over police conduct. New York police officers turned their backs on de Blasio in protest during a news conference and their union said the mayor had blood on his hands after last weekend's shooting.
Relations between the mayor and the police were already strained in the wake of the Eric Garner incident. Garner died after being placed in a chokehold by police last summer. Garner's daughter visited a memorial set up for the two policemen shot to death.